The Geographical Instruments of Ottoman Imperial Power with Adrien Zakar

On Monday, 10 January, 4 to 6 pm Adrien Zakar (Toronto) will give a lecture on “The Geographical Instruments of Ottoman Imperial Power”, as part of the Prof. für Technikgeschichte and Deutsches Museum joint Oberseminar. For attendance information, please contact Olga Sparschuh at

The Geographical Instruments of Ottoman Imperial Power 

Ottoman subjects produced a wide range of geographical books, atlases, land descriptions, and maps between the 15th and early 20th-centuries. Initially rare and restricted to court circles, these artifacts gradually became part of everyday life, reflecting the rise of territorialized states, intensifying militarization, growing literacy, and sweep capitalization of Middle Eastern economies. How can we thread these artifacts spanning the early modern and modern periods together? That medieval Islamic geographers had been instrumental in the transmission of classical spatial knowledge, such as Ptolemy’s Optics, to the European Renaissance is well known. That the Middle East is a laboratory for modern visual technologies from aerial photography to satellite imaging, the GPS and drones has likewise been documented with great depth. Knowledge production in between, however, remains a blind spot, conventionally approached as mere derivative of a European experience with technology and statecraft. Delving into these transitional passages in the formation of global cartography is critical to our understanding of both the development of modern mapping sciences worldwide and the political, social, and cultural history of the Ottoman Empire. This talk will examine the field of Ottoman cartography as it emerged out of the transnational trajectories of geographical theories and reformist movements as well as survey engineers, diplomats, investors, military officers, and educationalists.

Adrien Zakar is a historian of the late Ottoman world and the modern Middle East with expertise in political and social history, technology studies, and spatial history. Broadly, his research concerns late imperial modes of governance and knowledge production as critically grounded in the materiality of concrete practices such as cartography, geography, and magnetism. Adrien is Assistant professor of history at the University of Toronto’s Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Department and the Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.

Related News in this category