Chiara Petrolini
ifk Research Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2022 bis 31. January 2023

Knowledge, Violence, and Friendship. Oriental Studies in the Early Modern Habsburg Monarchy


Building new knowledge of the Islamicate world in early modern Europe was a story not of relentless intellectual progress but of danger, underground contacts, physical and cultural movements, and violence. The first Orientalism was born of conflict, truth and propaganda, religious crises and new global perspectives, slavery and missionary strategies, and other elements. The Habsburg monarchy’s territories provide a unique lens to examine their entanglements. How and why did people become Orientalists so close to the Ottoman Empire? What tools did they use? What linked the history of violence to that of knowledge? Beginning with the imperial librarian Sebastian Tengnagel, Chiara Petrolini will investigate the interplay between Oriental studies in Vienna, Wrocław, Linz, and Rome, and explore how they were affected by the largest normative center of Catholicism.


Chiara Petrolini specializes in the religious and intellectual history of early modern Europe (16th–17th centuries), focusing on religious conversions, Paolo Sarpi, and Tommaso Campanella. She studied the history of philosophy at the Scuola Normale Superiore and the Centre for Renaissance Studies in Florence. She has worked at the Universities of Verona, Macerata, Padova, and Bologna and, most recently, at the University of Vienna on a project on the imperial librarian and Orientalist Sebastian Tengnagel. Her research has been supported by fellowships at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris, the Warburg Institute, London, the German Historical Institute, Rome, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.


Sacre metamorfosi: racconti di conversioni di infedeli e pagani a Roma (XVII–XVIII secolo), Rome 2022 (forthcoming); with Vincenzo Lavenia and Sabina Pavone (eds.), Compel People To Come In. Violence and Catholic Conversions in the Non-European World, Rome 2018; with Hülya Çelik, »Establishing an Orientalium linguarum Bibliotheca in 17th-century Vienna: Sebastian Tengnagel and the trajectories of his manuscripts«, in: Bibliothecae 10.1 (2021), pp. 175–231; »Vienna e l’Oriente. Le lettere di Sebastian Tengnagel e Pietro Della Valle«, in: Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken, 100.1 (2020), pp. 359–373.

10 October 2022
  • Lecture
IFK & IFK@Zoom
Chiara Petrolini


Early modern Europe saw new knowledge about the Islamicate world arise at the same time that disruptive conflicts were occurring in religious and broader cultural contexts. But what is the interplay between these developments?