The Locust and the Starling: People, Insects, and Disease in the Ottoman Jazira and After, 1860-1930


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies


This project follows nomads, locusts, and cholera to understand mobility, environment, and power in the Jazira, the steppe region between the Euphrates and the Tigris. By exploring space as coproduced by Ottoman provincial boundaries and swarms of locusts alike, the project unearths human and non-human infrastructures beginning with imperial reforms of the 1850s. Moreover, it traces how the mobility of people, insects, and disease, set in motion in the Ottoman period, persisted and changed after the establishment of borders between British Iraq, French Syria, and Turkey. The dissertation thus presents the borders not simply as products of diplomacy or discourse, but rather grounds their development in sedentary agriculture, germ theory of disease, and synthetic pesticides. It ultimately recasts the simultaneous processes of integration and fragmentation in the post-Ottoman Middle East in terms of Ottoman precedents, while also connecting these developments to global environmental changes more broadly.