Since the Age of Revolutions, the Middle East has been a laboratory for mapping devices. Beginning with triangulation during Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, and later in the Crimean War; moving onto aerial photography in interwar Iraq; and finally to the GPS and the use of drones today—regional politics have both shaped and been shaped by the global proliferation of geographical systems. How has the development of mapping transformed the region from within? This is the question at the heart of this talk. Initially rare artifacts, maps and geographical books became ordinary objects that spread across military institutions, bureaucracies, private firms, schools, and individual households beginning in the mid-19th-century. In the multicultural Ottoman polity, people in both the capital and the provinces began to derive social meaning from the beliefs and practices associated with the territory. I will examine socio-political struggles over mapping and explore what they can tell us about late Ottoman governance and knowledge production in the transition from empire to nation-states.
Adrien Zakar received his Ph.D in history from Columbia University in 2018. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. Next academic year, he will join the University of Toronto as Assistant Professor at the Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Department and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.