Ambassadors in Marriage

by Tara Agacayak on November 30, 2009

You may have read last week’s post I wrote for Behind the Bazaar. It focuses around the studio exhibit (in a palace no less) of a favorite Turkish painter, Reyyan Somuncuoğlu.


Specifically I highlighted four of the paintings (included here) from her harem works. These paintings are of four women who were married to sultans and had sons who became sultans. Interestingly, all women were also foreigners, and I dubbed them the “original Expat Harem” (borrowing the concept from the anthology Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey*).

As was common, such marriages were strategic alliances between countries and empires. Though not well versed in the historical aspects, I suspect the women in such marriage-alliances had little if any choice about the matter. Nonetheless, such alliances sought to create bonds, bring peace, and join nations.

I wanted to develop this idea a bit and look at today’s cross-cultural marriages using my own as a lens. What resulted was this post on Strategic Love for the expat+HAREM blog. Compared to the foreign brides of history, the women of today’s expat harem have a choice in our relationships. We marry for love – not strategic alliances – but the end result may end up being similar to our predecessors of the harem.

I argue that modern multi-cultural marriages are opportunities to increase tolerance and understanding. Would you agree? Add your voice to this conversation on Strategic Love at expat+HAREM.

{All images used with permission from Reyyan Somuncuoğlu}

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