Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture
Kultur of Empire: The Production of Land, the Spirit of Capital, and the German Orient, 1871-1919

In the late nineteenth century, the German Empire expanded its imperial reach to the Ottoman Empire. This incursion is mostly conceived as one of "soft" Kulturpolitik ("cultural politics") through archaeological projects and educational reform. My dissertation broadens the understanding of Kultur ("culture") to better understand the immense scope of this imperial project: when one looks beyond the sphere of cultural institutions such as the university and the museum, and returns to the concept's etymological roots in cultivation of land, Kultur emerges as a capitalist, expansionist, and weaponized technique of constructing, managing, and extending the German Empire. In other words, there is nothing "soft" about this power. Throughout my project, Kultur functions in the meaning implied in its etymology: as the extraction of wealth from land, through practices of agriculture, archeology, and mining. I plan to follow one such process of value extraction—cotton agriculture—by closely examining three distinct but interrelated architectural "types" affiliated with the bureaucracies that underpin this system of cultivation: the farm, the bank, and the commodity exchange. Moving from the model farm built by the German Levantine Cotton Company in south-eastern Anatolia in 1905, to the 1897 Ottoman Public Debt Administration building in Istanbul, and the 1902 building of the Bremen Cotton Exchange, I will study imperial capitalism in domains beyond economic and material history in order to encompass symbolic value, aesthetic sensibilities and spiritual practices. Rather than focusing only on architecture's representational qualities, my project approaches architecture as an operational construct, mediating this Kultur.