Ottoman Cotton and Mountain Mosquitos: A Microscopic History of the Modern World

Chris Gratien, Assistant Professor at University of Virginia

What can we learn about major questions in the history of the modern world from its would-be margins? This talk addresses this question through the environmental history of Çukurova, which sits at the modern-day border of Turkey and Syria. In my book, The Unsettled Plain: An Environmental History of the Late Ottoman Frontier, I examined this corner of the Ottoman Empire over the course of the 19th and 20th century, as migration, capitalism, war, and technology transformed it from a region dominated by pastoralist migration between the mountains and the lowlands to a major center of agricultural export. In this talk, I will follow two threads from the book. In part one, I will explain how the history of Çukurova’s unique variety of cotton reframes the global story of the plant and the form of plantation slavery with which it is associated. In part two, I will reconstruct the human factors in a malaria epidemic that occurred in the same region during World War I and reflect on the narratives that tropical medicine of the era enabled and erased.


Hybrid Event, please register in advance : https://mit.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMtce2orD4oHdWHGd0RfLJhV9mn2aJhGUEc