Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Architecture, Expertise and the German Construction of the Ottoman Railway Network, 1868-1919
by Christensen, Peter Hewitt, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2014, 1325; 3626511
Abstract (Summary)

The dissertation examines the production of knowledge and architecture through the German-sponsored construction of the Ottoman railway network, comprising four discrete projects: the railways of European Turkey, the Anatolian railways, the Baghdad railway and the Hejaz railway and its Palestinian tributaries. The German construction of the Ottoman railway network is an historic event that proffers the opportunity to critically reconsider the epistemological tenets of expertise in broader political, economic and cultural structures distinct from the normative creative processes that dominate the historiography of empires. The dissertation capitalizes on the ambiguous colonial nature of the German role in the architecture, engineering, and urbanism of the late Ottoman empire and situates it as a variegated and occasionally dialogic model of European cultural expansionism by way of a process identified here as ambiguous transmutation.

Previous scholarship on the railways has focused near exclusively on its self-evident geopolitical and economic import. This is the first comprehensive and critical consideration of the railways' role in placemaking and the production of cultural artifacts not limited to train stations, settlements, maps, bridges, monuments and an archaeological canon. These aspects are presented in a wide survey of textual archival sources, visual records and the extant constructions themselves. In its five chapters, the dissertation gives hue and insight into the motives, methods and artistic goals of the German, Ottoman, and extra-national agents involved in the railways' gestation and five collateral forms of knowledge in which it was situated: political, geographic, topographic, archaeological and architectural and urban.

Wider findings emerge from this study. First, a burgeoning interdependency of modernity and secular rationalism with geopolitical strategy is manifest. Second, a new paradigm of the power / knowledge genre develops and privileges the transnational "expert" in the production of design knowledge in an early globalizing world order. Third, the railways' construction reveals new insight into the geopragmatic origins of multiculturalist logic. Lastly, the German construction of the Ottoman railway network materialized a site for paradigmatic mutations in architectural form. The dissertation explains these mutations and interprets their meaning. The dissertation serves an instructive function: explaining the dynamics of ambiguity as a way of negotiating innovation in knowledge amidst the excitement and duress of modernity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Blau, Eve
Commitee: Necipoglu, Gulru, Picon, Antoine
School: Harvard University
Department: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 75/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, World History, Architecture
Keywords: Architecture, Expertise, German empire, Imperialism, Ottoman empire, Railways
Publication Number: 3626511
ISBN: 9781321014822
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