Project (2023)

Mastering the Soil and Measuring Flow in Early Modern Istanbul

Drawing on court records, repair registers, as well as archaeological and visual evidence, this project examines the nature of the premodern occupation with soil as revealed through the multiple tasks and practical knowledge of the diversified workforce involved in hydraulic projects in seventeenth-century Istanbul. It traces the knowledge dimensions of the capital’s sophisticated water supply system, a subject that has not yet been fully explored through a history of science lens. Particular attention is given to the mobility of expertise, which sits at the intersection between local interactions and the much larger regional and trans-imperial connections across the Mediterranean. Ultimately, this project attempts to make different aspects of Istanbul’s hydraulic infrastructure visible across multiple scales—from the broad-scale of irrigation systems and water extraction techniques to the intimate scale of the human body and non-human beings—to highlight the complex, multilayered entanglements between the “natural” and the “built” worlds in the early modern period while also broadening our understanding of these categories at present.