Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUCLA

Changing States: Ottoman Sufism, Orientalism, and German Politics, 1770-1825


This dissertation shows how German diplomats imported texts related to tasawwuf (Sufism) from the Ottoman Empire, translated them into German, and published them to advocate for competing political visions following the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Specifically, it traces the life of Heinrich von Diez (1751-1817), an Enlightenment thinker who served as the Prussian charg? d’affaires in Istanbul from 1784-90, where he learned Ottoman, collected manuscripts, and established contact with a Sufi lodge. After returning to Prussia, he translated and published several Ottoman manuscripts to articulate his support for an absolutist revival. Habsburg diplomats in Istanbul, such as Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856), Valentin von Husz?r (1788-1850), and Vincenz von Rosenzweig-Schwannau (1791-1865), similarly established contact with Sufi lodges, imported manuscripts, and translated them into German to advocate for a competing vision of the future rooted in nationalism and romantic poetry. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) drew upon the work of these diplomat-orientalists to write the West-?stlicher Divan (1819), a collection poems inspired by Sufi literature. Theologian and orientalist August Tholuck (1799-1877) also built upon the work of these authors to advance his approach to evangelical theology. This dissertation shows how these thinkers appropriated Sufi texts to formulate and articulate their political visions for the future of the German-speaking world at the beginning of the modern era, locating discussions about nationalism, literature, and philosophy within a larger context of exchange between Europe and the Islamic world.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View