Theses Doctoral

The Disembodied Eye: Technologies of Surveillance and the Logistics of Perception in the Ottoman Empire and Syria, 1900-1930

Zakar, Adrien Paul

This dissertation investigates how the development and circulation of technologies of surveillance helped refashion institutional structures, systems of representation, and conceptions of nature and society in the Ottoman Empire and Syria throughout the transition from empire to nation-states. While militarization amplified the capabilities of modern states to discipline human perception through conscription and schooling, the notion of an all-seeing perspective - materialized in the aerial view - was incorporated in the apparatus of state power. The account moves between sites across the imperial territory and as the French mandate replaced Ottoman rule in Syria. These include ventures to propagate the map as an instrument of argumentation and discovery in the capital Istanbul, attempts by Jesuit geographers and earth scientists at inculcating new forms of sight upon the public in Beirut and the Beqaa Valley, the building of post-imperial scientific institutions in Damascus, and the optics of aerial warfare as devised by French strategists and subverted by Arab guerrilla commanders. Environmental representations such as maps and aerial photographs sustained competing social and institutional structures by inculcating upon their targeted audience concrete procedures for disciplining perception, which refashioned the subjectivity, social function, and epistemic virtues of the ideal commander and citizen. In the Middle East, as elsewhere, technologies of surveillance were integrated with existing political and philosophical currents such as Ottomanism, Arabism, and French colonialism, while simultaneously refashioning them from within. The coming of aerial warfare was an integral part of this ongoing process of cultural and technological transformation, which reconfigured political, epistemic, and ethical norms of war and peace.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Elshakry, Marwa
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 22, 2018