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Title:The nature of the Ottoman city: Water management and urban space in Sofia, 1380s-1910s
Author(s):Peychev, Stefan
Director of Research:Todorova, Maria
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Todorova, Maria
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cuno, Kenneth; Hitchins, Keith; Silverman, Helaine
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:This dissertation explores the intersection of natural and man-made space, the area where environmental and social forces meet to negotiate the physical contours of urban life and the cultural meanings of place. I employ an environmental perspective in order to address the natural ecology of urban life through a focus on water management and usage. At the same time, I use the notion of nature metaphorically to introduce a discussion of the characteristic mechanisms of Ottoman urbanism and problematize the narrative of ruin and decay that underpins the dominant discourse on the Ottoman period in Sofia’s history. I argue that the Ottomans built strategically, managing to integrate their own ideas of an urban environment with the natural conditions and the technological traditions of the region into a coherent system of water management. The two cornerstones of this system were the constant supply of running water coming from the nearby mountain and the hot thermal water spring marking the center of the city. Sofia’s rich urban hydrography was at the root of a culture of water that accumulated the knowledge, spiritual beliefs, and daily practices of various populations. The combined efforts of local, provincial, and central authorities, as well as the vested interests of the urban folk in the proper functioning of a public good, ensured the constant upkeep of the system. The holistic nature of environmental research and its resistance to the chronological constraints of political history allow me to expand my work to encompass the first four decades of the post-Ottoman period in Sofia’s history. Challenging the dominance of the grand narratives of rapid modernization and de-Ottomanization, elaborated in the Ottoman successor states as the legitimate framework for the study of modernity, I argue that while the level of reconfiguration of urban space in Sofia in the decades following the end of Ottoman rule was indeed staggering, some of the main directions in the transformation of the urban fabric had already been charted in the Ottoman period. My research points specifically to a high degree of continuity in the management of the city’s water infrastructure, an area that was otherwise at the forefront of the modernization project.
Issue Date:2019-04-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Stefan Peychev
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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