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During this work in progress session, Bob Pierik and Rukayyah Reichling will respectively present papers titled 'Speed in the Street: Vehicular Space in Early Modern Amsterdam' and 'Keeping an Eye on Imperial Mecca: Photography, Film and a Dutch Colonial Gaze at the Heart of Islam'. All are welcome to attend.

Event details of Speed in the Street & Keeping an Eye on Imperial Mecca
Date 18 March 2021
Time 15:30 -17:00

Speed in the street: Vehicular space in early modern Amsterdam
The presence of vehicles in the city causes tensions of safety and scarcity of space. In this talk, Bob Pierik will discuss the vehicle culture of early modern Amsterdam, where vehicles and their users had no undisputed right to the streets. The current view in the historiography is that early modern regulations that tried to curb wheeled horse-drawn vehicles were ineffective and that the streets rapidly became a vehicular space from the 17th century onwards. In this talk, based on a chapter from his dissertation in progress, this narrative will be revised by differentiating  by vehicle type and location within the city. Specific parts of the city formed distinct vehicular spaces, and draft horses carrying sleighs formed an underestimated but important part of early modern street life. This difference between wheeled and non-wheeled vehicles is explored through new empirical observations from notarial attestations and special attention is paid to the role of vehicle speed and the gendered nature of early modern vehicle culture.

Keeping an eye on imperial Mecca: Photography, film and a Dutch colonial gaze at the heart of Islam
The city of Mecca represents the geographical heart of Islam. For Muslims, the place functions as a double centre of gravity: on the one hand, Mecca contains the holy sanctuary of the Ka’ba to which Muslims from all around the world direct their five daily prayers and, on the other hand, it is the object of the yearly Muslim pilgrimage. With the mobility revolution in the nineteenth century the number of pilgrims grew exponentially, turning Mecca into an increasingly global city which closely connected disparate regions of the Muslim world.

Towards the turn of the twentieth century – when more Muslims were ruled by the leading imperial powers of the day than by any single independent Islamic state – the globalization of Mecca caused concerns among colonial circles. To counter potential pan-Islamic and anti-colonial forms of mobilization, imperial powers repeatedly tried to establish themselves as patrons of the hajj. Despite their efforts, however, they never managed to bring the holy sites of Mecca under full colonial control as a decree dating from the early days of Islam prohibits non-Muslims to set foot in Mecca. Consequently, Mecca stayed a “hidden” city, fuelling European imagination and suspicion.

The invention of photography and film allowed to “capture” Mecca in totally novel ways, thereby giving also non-Muslims a glimpse of the forbidden places. In her presentation, Reichling will discuss and contextualize the visual material produced by two Dutch men who were not only rare Western presences in Mecca but also both accompanied by a camera: first, the paper will shed light on the photography of pilgrims in Mecca produced by the scholar-to-be Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1937) in 1885, and second, on the documentary about the hajj made by the Dutch East-Indian filmmaker George Krugers (1890-1964) in 1928. Their works in Mecca, the visual portraiture of Muslim pilgrims and rituals, unveiled aspects of the Islamic religion that were previously hidden to non-Muslim eyes; it thus gave them the power to forge the colonial gaze on Muslim pilgrims and their holiest city.