A Digital Humanities Workshop Comparing Istanbul and Cairo

This innovative workshop organized by the Archives of Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean program at the History Department, Duke University, brings together leading historians and scholars of the modern Middle East with experts in visualization technology. The main focus is visualizing urban development of Istanbul and Cairo in a comparative angle. We propose to compare methods of digital humanities concerning visualizing temporal change in (becoming) metropolises, for educational and scholarly purposes. At the intersection of history, economics, urban studies, and digital humanities, the workshop fills a crucial gap in scholarship about urbanization in the Middle East and contribute to the study of the transition from imperial cities to nation-state metropolises.

The workshop consists of four parts:  1) An introductory keynote address 2) a panel on topographical data, 3) a panel on visualization technologies, and 4) a concluding discussion comparing methodologies explored for historical Istanbul and the digital tools for similar projects on Cairo.

Co-sponsored by Archives of Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, Department of Economics, History Department, Duke University Center for International and Global Studies, Duke Libraries, Political Science Department, Digital Humanities Initiative and PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, Information Science and Studies, Center for French & Francophone Studies, and Duke University Middle East Center

Program :

All events take place in Rubenstein 249, Carpenter Conference Room, West Campus

20 November, Monday afternoon 

  • 17:00-17:30
    Welcome reception
  • 17:30
    Keynote lecture: Mercedes Volait, InVisu – CNRS, Narrating Modern Cairo through Architecture and Photography
  • 19:00
    Dinner for participants

 21 November, Tuesday

  • 8:30-9:45
    – Discussion panel I: Using Topographical Data for New Insights into Middle Eastern Political Economy and Urban History
    Chair: Will Hanley (FSU/IAS Princeton)
    – Timur Kuran (Duke), with Cameron Eagles (Duke), The Political Economy of Ottoman Istanbul, 1600-1850: Spatial Distribution of Economic and Political Power (20 min)
    – Mercedes Volait (InVisu/CNRS) and Adam Mestyan (Duke), Making A Cairo Topography: Using The Karkégi Papers for Urban History Visualization (20 min)
    Comment: Edhem Eldem (Boğaziçi)
  • 9:45-10:00 Coffee
  • 10.00-11.00
    – Discussion panel II: Political Economy of Urban Development: Hydro-Politics in Istanbul and Cairo
    Chair: Adam Mestyan (Duke)
    – Shehab Ismail (Columbia), Wrong Side of the Pipes: Understanding the Colonial and the Public in Cairo’s Water Infrastructures (20 min)
    – Aslı Cansunar (Duke): The Politics of Water Supply in Ottoman Istanbul, 1453-1800 (20 min)
    Comment: Nicolas Michel (IFAO, Aix)
  • 11:00-11:15
  • 11:15-12:30
    – Discussion panel III: How to visualize topographical data ?
    Chair: Timur Kuran (Duke)
    – Nil Tuzcu (MIT), The Making of Istanbul Urban Database and Future Plans (20 min)
    – Julie Erismann (Lyon), Visualization Technologies of Documents in French Urban History (20 min)
    Comment: Mercedes Volait (CNRS, InVisu)
  • 12:30-13:30
    – Lunch (during lunch: Will Hanley presents the Digital Ottoman Gazetteer /Adam Mestyan presents Dhayl Khitat al-Maqrizi/)
  • 13:30-15:00
    – Discussion Panel III, Digital Analysis of Urbanization, Politics, and Economic Development in the Middle East
    Chair: Ellen McLarney (Duke)
    Discussants: Will Hanley (FSU/IAS Princeton), Charles Kurzman (UNC), and participants
    Roundtable with participants: future plans, co-operations


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