Adrien Paul Zakar

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Middle East
  • Dissertation Title: Landscapes, Vision, and Politics in the post-Ottoman Era, 1908-1939
  • My dissertation follows late Ottoman reformers, Jesuit missionaries, French colonial administrators, and Syrian revolutionaries in order to explore how their respective political agendas shaped their scientific approach to landscapes while their knowledge of the environment guided their politics throughout the interwar period in Syria and Lebanon. I build on cultural histories of warfare and on scholarly works on nature and imperialism to show how ways of seeing the landscape were shaped by the mundane practices of observing, classifying, and representing, not the other way around. Simultaneously, I explore how political and economic motives fashioned processes of classification, mapping, and visualization, including geographical categories, topographical surveys, aerial photographs, and astronomical observatories.
    In addition to shedding light on the role of environmental thinking throughout the transition from empire to nation-states, I propose a methodological intervention in the practice of cultural history. My dissertation envisions the aforementioned protagonists as simultaneously political and epistemic communities which held different beliefs on what science consisted of and on what it could achieve with regards to classifying and representing the natural environment.