Image 1: Hejaz Railway, 1907.(© Ekinci, Ekrem Bugra. ‘Daily Sabah’. Hejaz Railway: A Historic Line to Islam’s Holiest Cities, n.d. https://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2016/10/28/hejaz-railway-a-historic-line-to-islams-holiest-cities.)
Image 2: A group of Ottoman soldiers fixing the telegraph poles. (© Bahadır, Osman. Osmanlılardan Cumhuriyete Elektrik. Birinci Basım. İstanbul: Anahtar Kitaplar Yayınevi, 2020.)
Image 3: Students of the Military Academy pose in front of a bridge of the Istanbul-Ankara railroad line opened in 1892. (© The Yasser Alwan Collection, Akkasah: Center for Photography, Engin Ozendes Collection_ref220.)
“Usual Suspects” in “Unusual Locations”: Infrastructure, Maintenance, and Expertise in the Late Ottoman Empire (1855–1922)
Zeynep Ecem Pulaş’s PhD project analyzes the emblematic technologies of the nineteenth century, the telegraph and railway, in the Ottoman Empire through the lens of maintenance and repair.
It aims to show how the unrecognized labor of Ottoman actors who maintained and repaired these technologies underpinned not only the Empire’s economic and political apparatus, but also the wider functioning of global transport and communication networks.
Examining a mixed set of elite and non-elite Ottoman actors—engineers, telegraph clerks, local artisans, technicians, skilled workers—along with their ideas and practices, the dissertation asks: How did these Ottoman experts gain, produce, and circulate knowledge through their direct engagement with the technologies?
The study of the repair and maintenance practices in the Empire's two most extensive, economically demanding, and expertise-dependent projects will add to a new, decentered history of knowledge and technology that transcends Europe and innovation-centered approaches.
Zeynep completed a double major in history and political science at Istanbul Bilgi University. During her MA in global history at Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, she worked at the research center re:work and on the digital humanities project of the Hannah Arendt Critical Edition.