2023.02.06: Malte Fuhrmann

“From Empire to Dromocracy. Building the Infrastructure State in Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, 1839-1908”

February 06, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration: https://forms.gle/A8AJDvdaQyUiG5qD8

“Infrastructures are critical locations through which sociality, governance and politics, accumulation and dispossession and institutions and aspirations are formed, reformed, and performed” (Appel, Anand, and Gupta, 2018, 3). In particular, roads have developed such a strong influence on society that Dimitri Dalakoglou speaks of “dromocratic society” (society ruled by roads). However, as especially Jo Guldi has shown, the transformative power of infrastructure is not only a product of our times, but has changed politics since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the case of the Ottoman Empire and its breakaway provinces that after 1878 became Bulgaria, the new role of the state as provider of infrastructure was initially planned as a participatory process. However, due to the systematic failure of the Tanzimat state, its administrators either sought to fulfill their infrastructural promise to the subjects by means of multinational capitalism (Âali P.) or statist, but dictatorial means (Midhat P.). After 1878, Midhat’s statist developmental policy was adapted and perfected (Halil Rifat P.), but to serve the Hamidian system and its mistrust of the subject. While the Bulgarian state initially continued Midhat’s infrastructural policy, Bulgarian society managed to more strongly intervene in decision-making concerning road and railroad policy. The process however led to a harsh rivalry between the regions for connectivity and finally hindered the creation of a coherent rail network. The presentation will revisit key moments of road and railroad development policy in both countries to understand the impact of infrastructure on political culture from the reform era to the age of nation states.

Malte Fuhrmann is a historian of the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Europe, and Turkey in the modern era. He is the author of Port Cities of the Eastern Mediterranean. Urban Culture in the Late Ottoman Empire, Cambridge: University Press, 2020, and Konstantinopel – Istanbul. Stadt der Sultane und Rebellen, Frankfurt/M.: Fischer 2019.

Next Session: February 20, 2023: Cilja Harders (Freie Universität Berlin), “The politics of the poor in Egypt – analytical reflections and empirical findings

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