Cihan Tekay

Wednesday, 28 November 2018, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

International Bankers and Socialist Workers: Infrastructures of Capitalism between Brussels and Constantinople, 1909-1924

Cihan Tekay
(City University of New York / EUME Fellow 2018)

Chair: Malak Labib
(EUME Fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation 2018/19)

This presentation traces the institutional history of the Tramways and Electricity Society of Constantinople, a pioneer of electrification in the Ottoman Empire. Cihan Tekay’s research rethinks the economic and social transformations after World War I, and the shifting notions of citizenship which accompanied them, by focusing on the relationships forged by the provision of electricity. Tekay pays special attention to the years in which Istanbul was under Allied occupation, which highlight the crucial role played by electrified urban services in attempts at securing political consent and expose the complex network built by their provision.
The Tramways and Electricity Society of Constantinople was founded in a 1909 merger of German, French, and Belgian-Hungarian capital to provide metro, lighting, funicular railway and tramway services to the residents of Istanbul. During the post-World War I occupation of the city, Allied high commissioners became responsible for restoring services to prevent what they considered an impending urban uprising. Suppressing recurring strikes, regulating consumer behavior, and procuring coal for the power station quickly became the duty and concern of the occupying forces. This postwar moment provides a rich record of the material relationships that remade the political-economic determinants of the emerging nationalistic order. The company’s history also reveals how European and Ottoman capitalists grappled with the realities of an increasingly fragmented global system, as their investments faced sequestration by Allied countries and later nationalization by Turkish authorities. By tracing these technical and political networks, my presentation explores the transition from an international, cosmopolitan order to an increasingly nationalized one in the wake of war and revolution, in which European and Ottoman notions of citizenship were renegotiated and reshaped. 

Cihan Tekay is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her dissertation focuses on the political and economic anthropology of electrification in Turkey from a historical perspective. She is the recipient of the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship. In 2018, she is an Associated Doctoral EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien and at the Center for Global History at Freie Universität Berlin. She is interested in the history of globalization of consumer technologies, post-World War I political-economic relations between Germany and Turkey, and the spread of scientific ideas across the world.

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