A strange affliction from abroad


Yıldız, Sara Nur

Date of creation
2023 Gregorian
Preferred title
A strange affliction from abroad English
Work type
Single work
Work manifested
Work genre
Textual work

Adult, serious


Plica polonica was an early modern disease construct affecting the scalp and hair. Initially associated with Polish populations, the affliction spread throughout southern Europe, as the Ottoman chief imperial physician Ḥayātīzāde’s (d. 1103/1691) treatise on plica polonica indicates. Through a close reading of Ḥayātīzāde’s treatise, this paper explores how the Ottomans responded to a changing disease landscape shaped by the movement of people through warfare and enslavement. It argues that textual medical knowledge circulating in the Mediterranean region was modified according to local sociopolitical and cultural concerns. Ḥayātīzāde recast new Latin medical knowledge not just linguistically but also culturally to fit an Ottoman courtly context. The Ottoman court served as a locus not only for the dissemination of new medical knowledge; it was also a permeable contact zone populated by physicians and translators associated with trans-Danubian political elites. Ḥayātīzāde’s treatise was the product of entangled Ottoman Turkish and Latin learning and knowledge practices shaped in a world of transimperial agents.