Adrien Zakar


Adrien Zakar received a PhD in history from Columbia University in 2018. His research and teaching interests are in the late Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East, political, social and cultural histories, science and technology studies, war studies, and spatial history. He is currently developing his dissertation into a manuscript, titled Ottoman Geocracy: Territory, Society, and the Instruments of Empire (1850–1950). The book demonstrates that late imperial modes of governance and knowledge production were critically grounded in the materiality of cartography and geography. Drawing on extensive archival research in Ottoman, Turkish, Arabic, and French, it explores a neglected question in late Ottoman and modern Middle Eastern histories: how did maps and geographical books become part of everyday life beginning in the mid-nineteenth century? The construction of mapping bureaucracies, industries, and standards generated various forms of cartographic reasoning, sustaining competing social and institutional structures in the late Ottoman world— including continental and colonial empires, missionary orders, reformist movements, and insurgent organizations. Tracing the roots and trajectories of struggles over mapping across disparate parts of the Ottoman world throughout the transition from empire to nation-states, the book aims to offer a geopolitical thriller that expands our understanding of the relationship between technological instruments and the institutional, social, and cultural histories of the modern Middle East. Additionally, Adrien has been working at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis on building an open archive of geographical materials published in Turkish and Arabic from the late 18th-century to the interwar period. His second book project, titled Suggestion and Ottoman Power explores another area of the history of science, technology, and medicine by centering on the transformation, roughly in the same period, of Ottoman therapeutics, pseudo-sciences, mesmerism, understandings of matter, and imperial ideologies.