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Engineering Eastern Turkey: People, Place, and Power in the Upper Euphrates

Zeynep Kezer, Newcastle University, Fellow 2019–2020

Before arriving at Dumbarton Oaks I had been working on the Upper Euphrates Basin, presenting and publishing “swatches” from a much larger and complex landscape history. But the fellowship was my first opportunity to delve into the broader context of the intercommunal conflicts and geopolitical processes that shaped this region in the run-up to the twentieth century. I also investigated how landscape mediated the disputes and interdependencies between the region’s ethnically and religiously diverse inhabitants, and I examined recurrent patterns of resource extraction and their long-term environmental and political consequences. At Dumbarton Oaks I found a bright and supportive cohort, and our regular exchanges helped me produce a working outline for this unwieldy project. I wrote a chapter and half of my manuscript, produced a chapter on the region’s post-trauma historiographies for an edited volume, and wrote another chapter on the experience of non-Muslims for a reference book on the history of modern Turkey. I was also the “inaugural” e-presenter for the University of Virginia’s Center for Cultural Landscapes Research Roundtable. COVID-19 precluded further research at Dumbarton Oaks and planned work at other regional libraries, severely disrupting our rhythms of production. Nonetheless, especially among those who stayed, it also generated a profound sense of camaraderie.