“Grafting Knowledge and Knowledge of Grafting in Ottoman Literature and Agricultural Science 1500-1700”
(Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
FEBRUARY 24, 2021
Meeting ID: 987 0770 8981
Abstract: Histories of specific techniques, in which tools, labor, and knowledge intertwined in the production of goods, are conspicuously absent from the historiography of the Ottoman Empire. This paper will discuss the technique of grafting fruit trees, as it was described, systematized, and understood by Ottoman scholars and officials in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Ottoman narrative and archival sources from the mid-sixteenth century increasingly reflect the transfer of seeds, saplings, and trees across great distances. Grafting, which allowed trees to be transported and take root in new spaces—to be hybridized and modified—was a technique that exemplified the growing mobility of plants in Ottoman geographies. Grafting also appeared as a metaphor in Ottoman poetry and literature at large, where it was associated with both creative human intervention in nature and Ottoman identity. The case of grafting offers a challenge to a historiography that has tended to view Ottoman science and technology as arcane, tradition-bound, and detached from real techniques and commercial developments.
Bio: Aleksandar Shopov is a historian with interests in the history of science and the social and environmental histories of the Ottoman Empire, with a focus on the period between 1400 and 1800. He received his MA from Sabancı University and PhD from Harvard University in 2016. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Annemarie Schimmel Colleg in Bonn, and has also held fellowships at the Dumbarton Oaks Library in Washington, D.C., the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where he is a coordinator of the project “Agriculture and the Making of Sciences 1100-1700 (2021-2027).” He is currently writing a book about urban produce gardening in Ottoman Istanbul. From August 2021, he will be an Assistant Professor of Ottoman History at Binghamton University, SUNY, in New York.