The invention of the Mediterranean as a coherent analytical concept dates back to early nineteenth-century Europe, just as the new academic disciplines of history, geography, and Orientalism were being institutionalized, amid the wider transformation of the order of words and things into what Michel Foucault termed the “modern episteme.” This is also the period when Egyptian scholar al-Ṭahṭāwī spent about five years in Paris as the spiritual guide of a mission of students sent by the Ottoman governor Meḥmed ʿAlī to train in the new sciences, before returning to Egypt to play a central role in its intellectual life for the next forty years. Wick’s article explores the appearance of the new disciplines and concepts of the European Modern in the works of al-Ṭahṭāwī (notably, but not solely, the famous account of his French voyage) with special attention given to the place of the sea in general and the Mediterranean in particular.

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