[P4788] Histories of Place Making in the Middle East

Created by Secil Binboga
Sunday, 11/19/17 10:30am


The 'region' has been a central unit of analysis for the disciplines of history, geography, and planning. Originating from the Latin word, 'regere' (to rule, to command), the term became instrumental, especially after WWII, in integrating the social sciences with evolving area studies literature. Yet, the social sciences have continued to deploy the 'region' as a given framework rather than a tentative spatial configuration and the very object of inquiry that needs to be explored through deep histories in which it has taken various forms. On the other hand, area studies scholarship historicized 'the region', e.g. 'the Middle East', critically addressing its construction within a larger methodological realm of investigation through its political, economic, ideological, religious and diplomatic dimensions. But still, 'the area' has inherently been produced as a stable entity, rather than an ever-changing regionality whose spatial complexities contest geographical boundaries of knowledge.

This panel studies the question of how to conceptualize a region using a historical space that exists outside the dominant empire/nation-state frameworks. Each paper explores an aspect of regionality in the area of the former Ottoman Empire historically known as Cilicia or the Çukurova region, located in Turkey's southeastern Mediterranean corner at the border with Syria. We examine how this region was rediscovered through the phenomenon of 're-hellenization of Cilicia' in the nineteenth century, the Çukurova plain's rise as a 'Second Egypt' during the late Ottoman period, colonial and national imaginaries of Cilicia during the brief post-WWI French occupation, and 'the modern Çukurova' of post-WWII development projects. Our aim is to unpack the layers of a complex history of place making peculiar to the evolving historical geography of the Middle East.

By pursuing various instantiations of this region through materialities and symbolisms embedded in the very organization of archival artifacts; oral testimonies of communities; and technical vocabularies of state discourse, the papers in this panel will seek answers to the following questions: How are regional boundaries determined? Through what forms of politics, socialities and expertise have regional identities come to exist? How can we write about 'the region' vis-à-vis the epistemological priority and disciplinary authority attributed to 'the nation'? In doing so, we seek to further the study of ignored geographies that fall outside the dominant discourses concerning the history of the Middle East and foster critical reflection upon the a priori regionalities that students and scholars take to the research field.





Resat Kasaba

(University of Washington)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Chris Gratien

(Harvard University)
I earned my Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2015. My current book project, which is based on dissertation research, examines the environmental history of late Ottoman and early Republican Cilicia. Alongside my academic research, I also produce and...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Meltem Toksoz

(Bogaziçi University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Nilay Ozok Gundogan

(Binghamton University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Secil Binboga

(University of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Polina Ivanova

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;