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Lafi, Nora

Urban Infrastructure between Local Networks and the Wider World

The Tramway in Late-Ottoman Aleppo

In:
From the Household to the Wider World
Local Perspectives on Urban Institutions in Late Ottoman Bilad al-Sham

Tübingen University Press, Tübingen, 2022

S. 207-221

Abstract

Conflicts over infrastructure are highly informative to historians because they produce abundant archival material and constitute moments of explicit display of intention by the actors and institutions involved, and expose political, economic, institutional, factional and geopolitical rivalries. This chapter focuses on conflicts related to the construction of the first tram lines in Aleppo during the late Ottoman period. After presenting several methodological issues related to infrastructure studies in urban history including Ottoman cities, it is shown that in Aleppo, the study of tramway plans reveals the transformation of factional networks in an age of institutional and technical modernization. It centers on the ways in which local notables interacted with imperial governors and economic interests when negotiating the implementation of infrastructural works. It also investigates how urban planning, infrastructure, and networks of power and clientele were linked in a process that was crucial to the definition of new modalities of integration of Aleppo into the world economy. The discussion explores the notion of “public good” and its evolution in this context.