Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of .. (COALONIALISM)
Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil
Start date: Aug 1, 2013,
End date: Jul 31, 2017
"This is a multi-sited historical research into the geopolitical, social, and cultural implications of energy shifts during the long nineteenth century (1800-1911). Combining perspectives from archives in London, Istanbul, Cairo, and Jerusalem, I retrieve the so far ignored “age of coal” in the Middle East. Examining the mutually reinforcing role of British colonialism and fossil fuel extraction and proliferation, I aim to decenter Eurocentric understandings of industrialization by demonstrating the importance of colonial coal markets for financing Europe’s modernization and for providing overseas locations which prompted innovation in carbon-fueled technologies. Simultaneously, I concretize understandings of the power to colonize by following infrastructures like colonial coal-depots, steamer and rail lines.How is it possible, I ask, that English and Welsh coal facilitated the development of participatory forms of politics in England, while simultaneously solidifying authoritarian political structures when exported to a place like colonial Egypt? By following the different possibilities afforded by coal to English and Ottoman miners, coal-heavers in colonial ports, and to centralizing states reliant on newly-introduced transportation and communication technologies to control their populations, I will demonstrate how the different channels of coal propagation provided different kinds of leverage for historical actors. Finally, beyond coal’s significance in illuminating historical processes, it also reveals their ongoing implications in the present. In particular, it is impossible to understand the age of oil in the Middle East without attending to the colonial legacies of fossil fuels.As a historian specializing in the introduction of science and technology to non-Western settings, I propose to conduct four years of research to reconstruct these legacies, and eventually write the first book on the subject."
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