The Unsettled Plain
An Environmental History of the Late Ottoman Frontier
Chris Gratien



Ömer was born in a Central Anatolian village called Taf during the early decades of the Republic of Turkey. His family was well off for the area. Ömer was educated. And though it was no place for a young man with big aspirations, the little place where he grew up had its charms. The winters were cold and bleak, but with the return of spring, the bracing mountain air gave way to refreshing breezes. It was a wonderful place to spend the summer. The village was set in a region of expansive plateaus, or yaylas.1 Ömer’s ancestors, the Avşars, once visited those highlands each year with their flocks to pass the warm months in comfort, surrounded by bountiful, green grass and wildflowers. They would travel hundreds of kilometers between the Central Anatolian plateau and the lowlands of Çukurova on the Mediterranean coast, following pasture, water, and fair weather. But a few generations before Ömer was born, the Ottoman government settled them in villages. By the early twentieth century, the world of a people that had once traversed an empire had become very small.

Ömer was young at the time of his engagement to a girl named Haçça. He really loved her, and he was eager to get married. But marriage was often a family affair. Something happened that caused Ömer to abruptly leave the village behind and head for the fertile lowlands in the south that had become the center of Turkey’s cotton industry. According to those who knew the story, his sudden departure that summer was the result of a falling out with his family (küskün gitmiş). Perhaps they quarreled over his engagement to Haçça. Perhaps Ömer planned to make some money and come back for her. There were certainly other young men who had gone to Çukurova and returned with money and gifts, wearing brand-new suits purchased from tailors in the bustling markets of Adana. There, they found work in the cotton fields and factories that employed tens of thousands of migrant laborers. Çukurova was a place where a kid like Ömer could build a new life or return to his old one as a new man, provided it did not chew him up and spit him out like so many bales of cotton.

Ömer’s mother had begged him not to leave their village. She feared for his safety in the big city. “Don’t stay in Adana, my son,” she implored. “A mucuk will get in your eye.” Mucuk was the word for a type of mosquito in her Turkish dialect.2 The mosquito here was metaphorical. She simply meant that misfortune might strike him out of nowhere. There were many hazards awaiting a naïve country boy in a place notorious for exploitation and vice, and there were certainly other men who had gone to Çukurova and never come back. Missing her son and consumed by worry, she made the same long journey to Adana to retrieve him, only to be met with her greatest fear upon arrival. Ömer had died. Some said that he was stricken by the evil eye of envy. But the culprit was no metaphorical mucuk; it was an actual mosquito that got him. Ömer had contracted malaria. It was a common ailment during Adana’s notorious summers, and though it was not always lethal, Ömer probably had not been exposed to the disease before in his highland village. Many a strapping young man like him had traveled to Adana for work during those years and met the same fate. Yet his mother seemed to blame herself. “While he was dying, he turned to the wall for help,” she recalled in horror, realizing that he had had neither family nor doctor to care for him in his last moments. The trauma inspired her to write a poem, “The Lament of Ömer, Son of Durmuş Ağa.” One verse reads as if she imagined his final, feverish thoughts: “I’m getting on a truck. I’m going to Kayseri. I don’t want to die. I’m going to see Haçça.”

Ömer meant the world to someone, but he was not the kind of person whose life would normally enter the annals of world history, nor was the place he lived. His village has changed names multiple times, making its history harder to trace. Today, they call it Dadaloğlu, in recognition of the local belief that the famous bard by the same name is buried there. Dadaloğlu’s poetry had championed the resistance to a government decree that the nomadic populations of the region settle in fixed villages during the 1860s. His most memorable line—“the decree is the Sultan’s, but the mountains are ours [dağlar bizimdir]”—was a claim to sovereignty in a moment when the future of these communities became a central question of the Ottoman Empire, which deployed more than 10,000 men armed with modern weaponry to enforce the settlement orders. Dadaloğlu had distilled the defiant sentiments of these communities concerning a pivotal moment in their history. Without his songs, they might have been lost to time, so it made sense to rename a village born out of that history in his honor. In the Avşar villages, the practice of preserving songs that commemorate important moments as Dadaloğlu once did continued into the twentieth century. They have been transmitted orally across generations. Like the refrain “the mountains are ours,” Ömer’s story was known to people his age, who preserved it alongside hundreds of other tales of tragedy and heroism. Thanks to Ömer’s mother and those who learned her song, his eight-verse tale of love and loss lives on today.3

When compared with the archival record, sources for history like these songs follow a more complicated path to survival. An archival source is preserved by an institution for a given purpose, but its survival does not require that anyone else deem it to be valuable. For a folk song such as the “Lament of Ömer” to survive, others must learn it and repeat it. Members of a community must accept it as valuable in some way, internalizing its words, melodies, and rhythms, and making it their own. Only the greatest hits could survive generations.

Why then did Ömer’s community preserve this song, which described something far more personal than the collective struggle of Dadaloğlu and his contemporaries? Maybe it survived as some form of cautionary tale. Maybe the story resonated with the experiences of other families. For some, Ömer was family. Yet from afar, it may seem that there have been so many Ömers and Haçças over the years and so many laments composed about them, such timeless stories are ostensibly outside history altogether. But in fact, their story is of great value for writing the little-known history of their community, and its significance extends far beyond their remote villages. It was part of a much larger historical epic, the same one documented by Dadaloğlu. The place where Ömer was born, the economic forces that drew people like him to Adana, and even the malaria that killed him embodied the experience of a recent process that transformed rural societies. They were facets of the late Ottoman frontier, a space that defined a century of political, socioeconomic, and ecological change and reshaped life in the Middle East.

*   *   *

This book is about the remaking of Ömer’s world—Çukurova and its mountainous hinterland—between the Ottoman Tanzimat reforms of the mid-nineteenth century and Turkey’s development programs of the mid-twentieth century. In some respects, what follows is a familiar history of the late Ottoman Empire, only it has seldom been told with rural people and places at its center. They made up the vast majority of the Ottoman population. The administrative and commercial decisions made in Istanbul and the provincial capitals were ultimately about them. They were also the pioneers of the “late Ottoman frontier,” an internal zone of settlement and environmental transformation in the provinces of the empire. The history of these small but numerous spaces collectively shows how Turkey and other post-Ottoman states were the product of agrarian transformation. The remaking of society and politics in the Ottoman world entailed a remaking of rural environments, and in the process, how people understood and ordered the environment also changed. Though the frontier experience in the Ottoman Empire was not the same in all places, Çukurova was in many ways a microcosm of the empire’s transformation. In this study, it begins as a swampy, sparse winter pasture for nomads on horseback in which direct Ottoman authority over the countryside was limited. By the end, it will be overtaken by fields of cotton tended by farmers who sing the laments of once-powerful provincial lords and humble shepherds atop their tractors “like the song of a former, foreign world.”4

The fertile lowland of Çukurova became a late Ottoman frontier because merchants and Ottoman officials alike deemed it to be an unsettled plain. Few permanent villages existed there. Its main economic function was as seasonal pasture. The long process by which Çukurova came to be mostly grazing land for pastoralists like Ömer’s ancestors was cast as a historical aberration from a civilizational ideal. Through policies of forced sedentarization, village construction, and agrarian commercialization, Çukurova did become a densely settled region, encompassing not only the large cities of Mersin and Adana but a total of at least seven cities with a population of more than 100,000 today. In this regard, the dynamics of the Ottoman frontier survived long after the Ottoman state itself, revealing a line of historical continuity amid the breakup of a centuries-old empire.

But in serving as a point of continuity, the frontier experience left Çukurova unsettled in another sense. For rural people, the theme of this century of history was disruption, displacement, and dispossession. In the pages that follow, each group that lived in the late Ottoman countryside will have its turn at exile: pastoral nomads of the Taurus Mountains; Muslim villagers violently expelled from the Balkans, Crimea, and the Caucasus; seasonal laborers from Anatolia and Northern Syria; Armenians deported by the Ottoman government; prisoners of war; Kurdish refugees; “exchanged peoples” on both sides of the Aegean; and eventually, every villager who moved to the city because the nature of village life had forever changed. Their experiences reveal how societies in the modern Middle East were forged through intersecting displacements and movements of people.

The narrative of this work is diachronic, but the subjects of analysis that recur throughout the five chapters that follow are rhythmic. Despite the significant changes that occurred over the period examined in this book, each chapter returns to dimensions of continuity that manifest not through static states but rather through percussive repetition of familiar modes and melodies that can be conceptualized as “refrains.”5 These refrains arise not only from “natural rhythms” that have long fascinated historians of the Mediterranean but also from the new rhythms of increasingly complex systems of economic production and the modern institutions that order nature and time itself.6 The refrains in this study contain interacting rhythms of seasonal migration, agricultural labor, capitalist production, bureaucratic function, and mosquito reproduction. The continuities and the gradual evolution of these refrains drive this story of movement, ecological upheaval, and social transformation.

A major contention of this book is that the disease that killed Ömer—malaria—was fundamental to the unsettled ecology of the late Ottoman frontier and its rhythms, more a product of recent developments than the primordial scourge it is often assumed to be. Caused by a blood-borne parasite transmitted between humans by mosquitos, malaria was present in the Mediterranean for millennia. Only in recent decades have public health measures and mosquito eradication programs nearly eliminated malaria in Turkey. Yet prior to the advent of modern biomedicine, people possessed means of mitigating malaria’s impact rooted in an intimate knowledge of local geography and a seasonal conception of space. Long before Ömer’s encounter with the disease in the city of Adana, people in the region avoided malaria’s impacts through seasonal migration between the mountains and the lowlands. That was one thing groups like the Avşars shared with even their most sedentary and urban neighbors. However, the major forces that shaped the late Ottoman frontier—the modern state, capitalism, war, and science—each changed the region’s ecology and rhythms. In the process, malaria became widespread in new ways as the practices that enabled local people to mitigate the risk of disease and maintain their livelihoods were eroded. Though it was an old ailment, malaria in its modern form was an artifact of rural dispossession.

This history of malaria reveals a new political history of the late Ottoman world, but it was not removed from the more well-charted political violence associated with imperial fragmentation, communal conflict, war, and state-building. On the socioeconomic level, the Ottoman frontier produced a new landed elite enriched by the labors of a new class of agricultural workers. On the communal level, the creation of a new rural ecology placed new groups of settlers and migrants in conflict with local people, while commercial competition created an additional arena of conflict between ethnoreligious groups. Though contention was a persistent feature of the new spaces created by the frontier, large-scale war and political strife during the Ottoman Empire’s final decades accelerated processes of displacement and dispossession. The environmental history of the late Ottoman frontier does not explain the political conflicts that shaped the region. Yet it demonstrates that those conflicts did not emerge from ancient enmities. They unfolded in novel spaces produced by migration, displacement, political reform, and commercialization.

For many, the experience of the late Ottoman frontier was one of violence and loss, but its history is also full of examples of resistance and resilience. People subjected to settlement policies that threatened their livelihoods, like the communities that rallied around Dadaloğlu’s cry of “the mountains are ours,” fought and won battles to preserve aspects of their ways of life within a new Ottoman order. People who faced ethnic cleansing and genocide found ways to survive in the direst of conditions, and refugees from distant lands built new lives in the Ottoman countryside against formidable odds. Cultivators and workers defied the demands of the market and maintained local practices while still participating profitably in an increasingly uneven world economy. And even though the entire project of the modern state appeared at times antagonistic to their culture, rural people preserved a sense of place and forms of local knowledge and memory long after the world they came from was irrevocably changed. The past acts of resistance and strategies of survival studied in this work reveal how the creation of the modern world entailed concerted destruction wrought far from centers of political power and capital. Those who endured and resisted this destruction have not received the attention they deserve. Their lives provide a window onto other ways of knowing and being in a present where the narrative of progress is increasingly replaced by a prophecy of impending environmental catastrophe. There is no going back to the world they came from. But the legions of people who resisted developments once simplistically cast as progress “show us how to look around rather than ahead.”7

In the pages that follow, many actors will emerge in this multivocal history of environmental transformation in Çukurova and its mountainous hinterland. Bandits, bureaucrats, immigrants, landlords, workers, doctors, tourists, shepherds, goats, and mosquitos will each have their moments at center stage. Their experiences have been preserved in archival documents, memoirs, newspapers, local histories, and folklore in Turkish, Armenian, and a host of other languages that constitute the fragmentary and international source base for the history of a region that was never the center of a unified modern state. In bridging linguistic and temporal gaps in the historiography of the Ottoman Empire and exploring environmental themes largely ignored by extant work, I hope to have achieved a narrative that not only enriches the study of the modern Middle East but also underscores its relevance for scholars of other times and places. I also hope to have done justice to the historical experience of the actors foregrounded in this study and the place they made or called home. But this is not just the history of that little world over the course of a century of change. It is the history of the unmaking of their worlds and the making of ours. Let’s call it a history of “the world and a very small place” in the Ottoman Empire.8

Environment, Empire, and Indigenous Ecology

Though there are relatively few English-language publications about it, there is a precedent for using a place like Çukurova to write about something bigger. This work is influenced by the greatest chronicler of rural life in Southern Anatolia: the novelist Yaşar Kemal. In an interview from 1960, he addressed the notion that he would eventually run out of material writing about his native Çukurova. “What would that even mean?” he asked. “Could Çukurova ever run out? [Çukurova biter mi].”9 The next year, his award-winning novel İnce Memed was published in an English translation, permanently adding this small region of modern Turkey to the annals of world literature.10 Born to Kurdish refugees from Eastern Anatolia who settled there during the World War I period, Yaşar Kemal found Çukurova to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration. And over a career that continued up to his death in 2015, he never really ran out of Çukurova to write about. He published dozens of books, most of them dealing with the lives of rural people in the region, how they have transformed, and how they remained the same. When asked to reflect on his work and his choice to focus almost solely on Çukurova, Kemal frequently appealed to universalism. For Kemal, to write about Çukurova was to write about the human experience through his subjective lens. He was not just writing about Çukurova. And in this regard, Kemal was not alone in writing about it. As he once put it, “Tolstoy was writing about it, Dostoyevski was . . . no writer can be a great novelist if they don’t have a Çukurova. Stendhal also wrote about his own Çukurova. I’ve written about Çukurova as much as anyone else.”11

Kemal followed the dictum of “write what you know,” but his work was also guided by political commitments that always drew him back to rural people. His early work employed ethnographic methods born out of an affinity for songs and stories that began in childhood. He would go on to use the fragments of human experience contained in those songs and stories to author novels of epic proportions. Kemal’s first publication, however, was a collection of laments from the Çukurova region, songs by rural people like the one that commemorated the aforementioned Ömer’s untimely demise. For him, the lament genre, or ağıt, which typically involved a song composed for a person who died a tragic or heroic death, was not just an expression of the relationship between an individual and an author. He wrote about laments as cultural palimpsests, songs that could be modified and added to by other interpreters to bring their own experience into the living composition. The familiar laments that circulated in Çukurova were not songs about individuals; they were frames for narrating the experience of a community rooted in a multilayered past.12 Kemal regarded the people (halk) of Çukurova as a cultural repository not just of that region but of human history and genius itself. “I’ve always wondered: why is a woven carpet as beautiful as a Picasso painting,” he mused in one interview. “It’s because its design is 10,000 years in the making.”13

Many social historians of the late Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey find inspiration in Yaşar Kemal’s approach, which brings to life the stories of ordinary people in ways that the archive cannot.14 Yet if recent scholarship is any indication, the longstanding strain of Ottomanist scholarship concerned with peasants, pastoralists, and “provincial” people so dear to the late Yaşar Kemal once held a place of higher prominence in the field. Suraiya Faroqhi, who has been writing about the provincial history of the Ottoman Empire for over half a century, has critiqued this trend in terms of a methodological shift, noting that since the cultural turn of the 1980s, Ottoman studies had turned its back on the rural people who made up the vast majority of the empire’s population but have “left very few traces of their cultural orientations.”15 If the cultural turn did leave them behind, it is because the operative definition of culture privileged elite written and material culture. By treating human ecology—the relationships between human beings and their environments—as a dimension of culture, however, we can access a whole world of cultural orientations that is yet to be properly explored.

Recently, scholars have returned to the role of rural people in Ottoman life, thanks in part to the emergence of environmental history, defined here as the study of humans and their past relationships with “the rest of nature.”16 Environmental history has reinvigorated the study of agrarian spaces in the former Ottoman Empire, drawing greater attention to factors like soil, water, plants, and animals that were fundamental to that polity but treated as marginal in political narratives of its history. The first works of Ottoman environmental history focused mainly on the empire itself as an “ecosystem,” in the words of Alan Mikhail.17 This framework allows for the study of cyclical and repeated flows of people, biota, and material, and their role in constituting political and economic life over a broad region. Similarly, large-scale events like epidemics, epizootics, and climatic change may be studied on an imperial level to demonstrate the role of environmental factors in political histories. Newer scholarship explores relations and phenomena that are only legible on a smaller scale, moving away from framing Ottoman environmental history in a manner that reifies the field’s state-centered bias, which erases the texture of local ecologies.18

Writing good environmental history requires much more than thinking of nonhuman factors as agents and forces in history; it means understanding that the environment and human culture mutually constitute one another. It also requires accounting for how people understood their environments and acted upon those understandings. It means not only looking to new sources about the history of the environment but rereading familiar sources with an “ecocritical” lens, which is to say, in Robert Kern’s words, “to recover the environmental character or orientation of works whose conscious or foregrounded interests lie elsewhere.”19 An ecocritical reading of sources in turn means taking seriously past actors with radically different worldviews, interrogating conceptions of “nature” itself, and uncovering anthropogenic dimensions of environments one might otherwise regard as natural. This work also adopts the perspective of political ecology, defined here as a “post-positivist understanding of nature and the production of knowledge about it, which views these as inseparable from social relations of power.”20 Environmental historians draw on the natural sciences, but scientific expertise cannot be taken at face value. The very practices by which nature has been constructed as an object of inquiry have also served political projects that usurped rural people in both cultural and material terms for the purpose of reordering the environment to suit the needs of the modern state and capital.

If people like Ömer are still marginal in the field of Ottoman studies, they are increasingly important within the environmental humanities turn toward indigenous ecology. As an analytical category, the term indigenous can be juxtaposed with a host of entities associated with colonialism, capitalism, and globalization over the past centuries: the settler, the plantation owner, the corporation, the technocratic state, and so forth.21 If the environmental history of human societies over the past few centuries could be summarized in a word, it would be usurpation—of local people, of their communal and political formations, and of their ways of knowing and ordering nature. Plants, animals, microbes, and a range of ecological practices pertaining to agriculture, water management, resource extraction, and manufacture that were initially confined to specific regions have spread—albeit unevenly—throughout the world.22 Local ecologies have also been reoriented by production for the demands of a global market as opposed to more local networks. In the process, indigenous understandings of nature were maligned as economically inefficient and environmentally irresponsible, especially in areas subject to European colonialism, as scholars such as Diana Davis have convincingly demonstrated.23 This process of dispossession involved what Jason Moore describes as a reordering of the environment to produce “cheap nature” that served the extractive systems associated with the capitalist world economy.24

As a result of these developments, the world saw the greatest-ever rise in human population, but it was accompanied by escalating economic disparity. Pollution and environmental destruction have likewise occurred unevenly. Climate change is the greatest expression of this process.25 Environmental activities that have produced wealth in primarily temperate regions of the world disproportionately threaten environments nearest to the equator and the poles, and pose the greatest immediate threat to communities whose relationships with their lived environments are often least mediated by technology. Megacities have emerged in places most likely to be devastated by climate change, ranging from the arid southwestern United States to the historically shifting Bengal Delta. Amitav Ghosh has called this revolution “the great derangement,” inverting Polanyi’s notion of “the great transformation” to fashion a more dystopian understanding of what modernity is and what it holds for our future.26

This monograph belongs to a growing number of studies examining the erosion and destruction of indigenous ecologies over the past two centuries throughout the making of the world ecology. Though it was part of the Ottoman Empire, Çukurova is kin to a variety of places. Like Beringia in Bathsheba Demuth’s The Floating Coast, they are places far from sight that endured dramatic changes once spotted by the rapacious gaze of capital.27 Like La Huasteca in Myrna Santiago’s The Ecology of Oil, they are unique environments stripped down to produce commodities and extract resources for the market, only to become sites of conflict between workers and owners.28 Like Bengal in Debjani Bhattacharyya’s Empire and Ecology, they are liminal environments entirely reordered to support a population of millions for the profit of a few.29 And like so many important corners of the globe, Çukurova has long awaited an environmental history of internal colonization “buried under the national space” of modern historiography.30

The Late Ottoman Frontier

Like so many such places, Çukurova was a settlement frontier, a space where modern societies were produced through what James Belich terms the “settler revolution.”31 These frontiers saw foreign people, ecologies, and state forms imposed upon local communities in some fashion, and they were ubiquitous in nineteenth-century empires. What follows will certainly harken to the history of the American West, the Russian East, French Algeria, South Africa, and a host of other examples of the “unending frontiers” inherited from early modern empires.32 The Ottoman frontier is special among this club, not just because it has barely been included within its historiography, but also because the Ottoman Empire was contracting as a territorial entity. Over the course of its last century, the tricontinental empire lost provinces in Europe and North Africa to incursions by European empires and uprisings by national independence movements. By its end, all that was left was Anatolia, Thrace, and the lands of the Arab Mashriq.

The historiography of the late Ottoman frontier is currently most robust at the empire’s edges in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the borderlands of Eastern Anatolia and Iraq. It shows that even while losing territory, Ottoman officials harbored expansionist visions.33 Thomas Kuehn’s work on late Ottoman expansion in Yemen and its “Tanzimat imperialism” has explored how in seeking to secure its frontiers, officials adopted an approach to local communities that resembled the practices of modern European colonialism in the production of both knowledge and political difference.34 However, less distant from its major centers, the Ottoman Empire produced a different and, in some ways, more intense frontier experience in the Balkans, Anatolia, and Syria. The wars and territory it lost in the Black Sea region, the Balkans, and the Aegean produced millions of refugees who settled in the remaining Ottoman domains. Designated as muhacir (pl. muhacirin), the vast majority of these refugees were Muslims, and they received Ottoman nationality.35 A new immigrant class became the vanguard of an empire-wide program of iskân, or settlement, projected not out into the wild expanses of a territory in the process of being conquered but rather into pockets of sparse population and contested hegemony that had been part of the empire for centuries. Meanwhile, as Isa Blumı notes, “finance capitalism created a particular kind of refugee exposed to a form of exploitation that increasingly scoured the earth for cheap labor.”36 Migrants of various sorts became central to the commercialization of the Ottoman countryside and the emergence of local forms of capitalism, which further expanded the environmental frontier.

The fate of the Ottoman Empire’s new class of settlers became intertwined with the reform of the Ottoman government known as the Tanzimat, aimed at reasserting central imperial control to increase tax revenues and meet the needs of a growing, modern conscript army. The provinces became the site of a bold program of rural reorganization which Milen Petrov has aptly described as “Tanzimat for the countryside.”37 The project of Tanzimat for the countryside began in full force after the Crimean War (1853–56), when provincial reform became central to government policy. New land tenure policies, infrastructural projects, water and forest management, and the promotion of novel crops and commercial agriculture were accompanied by efforts to settle millions of migrants throughout the empire. The Tanzimat government also employed its own nomadic population in this settlement program, sometimes by constructing new villages and compelling pastoralists, such as Ömer’s Avşar ancestors, to change their modes of habitation. Though its policies took different forms and brought different impacts from region to region, in total Tanzimat in the provinces amounted to an “Ottoman civilizing mission.” The policies initiated under the Tanzimat reforms continued to shape the Ottoman countryside under Sultan Abdülhamid II, as well as under the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) that usurped him in the constitutional revolution of 1908. The Republic of Turkey—largely built by former CUP figures and other former Ottoman officials—expanded the vision of the Tanzimat even further.

Although frontier settings varied widely from place to place within the Ottoman Empire, the imaginaries of the frontier were portable. Similar rhetoric was applied to settlement in regions with environments very different from Çukurova’s. The most striking example perhaps is the Ottoman project to settle Cretan Muslim refugees in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) at the turn of the twentieth century, recently examined by Frederick Walter Lorenz. These migrants were envisioned as a vanguard of Ottoman civilization and cultivation in an area dominated by nomadic communities that were cast as “savage” in official discourse. Moreover, just as in Çukurova, Ottoman officials promoted the idea of developing Cyrenaica as a “second Egypt,” gesturing to how the project of the late Ottoman settlement frontier was tied to the idea of recovering the wealth lost through territorial contraction in the Balkans and Egypt’s de facto independence.38

The late Ottoman frontier was a frontier in three senses. It was a “frontier of the state,” a space in which new forms of state presence were asserted or reasserted in rural settings.39 It was also a settlement frontier involving millions of people on the move. Finally, it was an ecological frontier, one in which novel plants, animals, microbes, methods of land use, modes of agrarian production, forms of resource extraction, and environmental understandings emerged in tandem with the processes of state-building, settlement, and commercialization. Key to the concept of frontier as defined above is that the most important spaces of the Ottoman frontier were not necessarily regions of political borderlands. They were pockets of transformation within the Ottoman provinces, and there is a growing body of work dealing with these spaces, though not always under the precise heading of frontier and more frequently under the heading of provincial reform.40 The concept of the frontier not only sharpens our understanding of what was taking place in such spaces but also draws attention to what they shared. When treated as a collective, these disparate provinces reveal a common story that was central to the remaking of Ottoman society. Çukurova’s historical experience contained many of the dynamics typical of the frontier moment.

One such dynamic, which has received the most attention, is conflict between Muslims and Christians. The expulsion of Muslims from formerly Ottoman lands and the localized rebellions and massacres in many provinces during the late Ottoman period served as the backdrop for confessionalized conflict on the imperial scale. In Çukurova, escalating antagonisms culminated in the massacres of 1909, which claimed the lives of thousands of Armenians throughout the Adana region. Along with the anti-Armenian pogroms of the 1890s, the 1915 Armenian genocide, and other violence against Christians in the empire during World War I, the Adana massacres have defined how the history of this region has been discussed. The Muslim-Christian divide that widened during the war years in turn shaped the postwar conflicts that birthed the Republic of Turkey. New scholarship is revealing just how important the political economy of provincial society is for understanding the political transformation of the Ottoman Empire and events like the Armenian genocide as well as their centrality in the making of the Republic of Turkey and the former Ottoman territories.41

The violence that accompanied the end of empire has loomed large for justifiable reasons. It has been the main interest for anglophone scholars who have studied the history of the Çukurova region. There is of course much more to the region’s history. Both the teleologies of ethnic cleansing and genocide as well as the contrivances involved in avoiding their discussion have skewed the historiography of the Ottoman Empire. However, I do argue that the frontier experience was central to how communal relations changed. Attending to the spatial dimensions of the frontier sharpens the impression of simultaneous “convergence” and “divergence” that defines the current scholarly consensus on communal relations in the late Ottoman Empire.42 The same process that birthed the cosmopolitan cities of the late Ottoman Mediterranean like Izmir, Salonika, Beirut, and Mersin fostered conflict in the countryside. The transformation of what Nicholas Doumanis studies as “intercommunality”—a quotidian, lived experience of social bonds across confessional divides—must be understood within the context of significant population movements and socioeconomic changes.43 They produced a shared Ottoman culture among an emergent urban class but also created new social rifts. These rifts were distinctly modern, though they cannot be reduced to a single cause associated with modernity as such. Rather, the frontier was a key spatial component in a complex process that produced drastic results in its rawest manifestations.

For many, the notion of “frontier” in English gestures to the specificities of the American context, where the word transformed from merely being synonymous with borders or geographical limits to take on a “special civilizational or emotional meaning… as a liminal zone associated with a distinct culture.”44 In using the term “frontier” for the Ottoman context, I highlight what was common about the conceptualization of space across different empires of the period, where the practices of empire shared a great deal despite the sometimes distinct genealogies of their discourses. Indeed, this study warns against the reductive, deterministic role that the frontier played in early American historiography under the influence of Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis. In bringing rural spaces to the center of questions about late Ottoman transformation, the frontier does not offer simple answers. Rather, it challenges us to grapple with the diversity of local contexts, the multiplicity of their historical experiences, and the extent to which the historiography of the late Ottoman Empire unduly reflects an urban bias. That bias has flattened the narratives of how the empire changed, as well as conventional understandings of the modern societies that emerged from the post-Ottoman world.

From Cilicia to Çukurova

The name Çukurova refers to an interconnected region centered on the city of Adana and the port of Mersin, each of which boasts more than a million inhabitants today. The region lay roughly at the geographical center of the late Ottoman Empire on the Eastern Mediterranean littoral at the historical junction of Anatolia and Syria (and Turkey’s present-day border with Syria). In the mid-nineteenth century, Adana’s population was just around 30,000, still making it the region’s most populous city. Many of the other significant urban settlements of today had not yet been founded. The dramatic metamorphosis of Çukurova was the consequence of commercialization of agriculture and the export of cotton, wheat, sesame, and rice beginning in the nineteenth century. This process has been studied by Meltem Toksöz in one of the few academic monographs about the Adana region to be published in English.45

The name Çukurova gestures to that region’s recent environmental transformation. The label çukur connotes a depression. Coupled with the geographical feature of a plain, or ova, the name Çukurova signifies “lowland.”46 During the Ottoman period, this was not a name for an entire region but rather for the large plain between the Taurus and Amanus mountain ranges and the Mediterranean coast. In other words, Çukurova was once the swampy outback of the much larger region that the name describes today. Making modern Çukurova entailed filling the plain with people, houses, and farms as it became Adana’s late Ottoman frontier. Though these lowlands were on the margins of settlement for rural people throughout most of the Ottoman period, they now contain all the region’s major cities and most of its economic activity. The modern name of Çukurova thus attests to the centrality of this process in redefining a region with a much longer history.

Previously, a historical name for this space was Cilicia, a toponym that stretches back millennia in some form. It was used as a provincial designation under many centuries of Roman rule.47 For most of the past millennium, Cilicia’s true center of gravity was not the fertile lowlands but rather the mountainous hinterland. During the medieval period, Cilicia was united as an independent kingdom under Armenian dynasties. After that, principalities, or beyliks, descended from Turkic groups that migrated to Anatolia under the Seljuks claimed most of historical Cilicia, governing as largely independent rulers in alliance with states like the Mamluk Sultanate. Both groups ruled over the cities of the lowlands, but their power was rooted in control over the mountains. When the Ottoman Empire incorporated the region during the conquests of the early sixteenth century, these communities continued to hold considerable political sway and carved out spheres of autonomy. The history of Çukurova as a late Ottoman frontier begins with the story of how the centralizing Ottoman government reasserted its presence in Cilicia during the mid-nineteenth century, catalyzing many of the changes that occurred in the following century.

Chapter 1 of this book explores how the frontier of Çukurova was the product of developments that unfolded over several centuries and the entanglement of local political power and autonomy with local ecology shaped by seasonal migration between the mountains and the lowlands. It places particular emphasis on the temporal space of the yayla, summer quarters located in the Taurus and Amanus Mountains, as the defining feature of this ecology. The yaylas were frequented by the nomadic pastoralists who made up much of the population in the Cilicia region by the outset of the nineteenth century. They capitalized on the availability of vegetation at different elevations over different parts of the year. However, the yayla was no less important to urban populations as a site of refuge from the summer discomforts of intense heat and malaria, which spread in the lowlands during the warm months of the year. Muslims and Christians alike from every walk of life participated in the rhythm of migration between the mountains and the lowlands, and their ecological understandings, though divergent from modern biomedical knowledge, were well founded in the epidemiological realities of the lowlands. However, their movements also endowed the yaylas with political significance. Despite attempts by the Ottoman Empire to reorient the region over the course of the early modern period, the position of the mountains in Cilicia endured, and those who controlled them became key to the Ottoman project of provincial reform that was coming with the Tanzimat.

Chapter 2 explores the making of the modern state and the role of settlement policy in the lowlands of Çukurova within the broader goals of the Tanzimat during the 1860s and 1870s. It identifies the environmental impacts of settlement on migrants and forcibly sedentarized pastoralists, pointing to mass mortality from malaria and starvation as an experience shared across many groups. It explains how Ottoman settlement policy was part of a civilizing mission articulated by statesmen like Ahmed Cevdet Pasha, who saw settlement and cultivation as fundamental to the reform of the empire. It also shows how the populations subjected to settlement resisted Ottoman policy due to the spread of malaria it catalyzed. Their resistance prompted the Ottoman government to adjust policies to make them more consistent with the ecological realities of the region.

Chapter 3 is about capitalism and its role in the remaking of the Cilicia region during the last decades of Ottoman rule. Some imagined Cilicia was “the Second Egypt” due to its perceived agricultural promise, especially for growing cotton. In addition to studying the unique local form of capitalism that emerged in Cilicia, this chapter considers how this commercial economy engendered unevenness as well as rifts in agrarian society that contributed to the dynamics of the 1909 Adana massacres. It also charts the emergence of seasonal labor rhythms that brought workers to Cilicia from all over the empire, and how with the spread of malaria and other health issues as systemic problems within these groups, the Ottoman government established new medical institutions and targeted a more thorough environmental overhaul of the countryside. Cotton did not remake Cilicia in an instant, but by 1914, the “second nature”48 born out of plantations and new lowland settlements increasingly defined local experience of the environment.

Chapter 4 demonstrates how war and displacement impacted Cilicia in social and environmental terms. It studies the long World War I period from 1914 to 1923. Mobilization for war destabilized the economic production of the Adana region, and with the deportations of the entire Armenian population and Muslim refugees fleeing into the region, Cilicia—like other parts of the empire—became a zone of mass displacement. The war also fueled ecological transformation. On one hand, the Ottoman state and its agents took on a greater role in the agrarian domain. On the other, malaria took on a novel form due to the conditions of war, resulting in an unusually virulent malaria epidemic with an improbable epicenter at a yayla in the Taurus Mountains. After the war, France invaded Cilicia to establish a colonial mandate, but France’s short years there were merely an encore of wartime displacement and turmoil. As a result of these conflicts, Cilicia as a space shared by Muslims and Christians was destroyed, and the name “Cilicia” itself fell out of use in Turkey. However, many of the environmental trajectories in the region that were set during the Ottoman period endured.

Chapter 5 studies how science and technology were harnessed by the nation-state in the Republic of Turkey to further remake the late Ottoman frontier it had inherited. It explores the early republican period through World War II to the transition to democratic rule in Turkey during the 1950s. Science became an integral component of the relationship between the government, provincial society, and the environment in the realms of agriculture and medicine. The Adana region became a laboratory for testing technologies of governance, particularly through a comprehensive malaria control campaign. Out of the technocratic consensus that emerged within the republican state, a militant discourse about nature and the economy itself emerged. At the same time, a romantic understanding of nature fixated on the mountains and the yayla as a space of bourgeois leisure. Yet the fetishization of the mountains and the pastoralist communities that once controlled them only occurred once such communities were pushed to the margins. The process of settling the late Ottoman frontier culminated with the gentrification of mountain spaces by the new urban elite and middle class, as science, technology, and medicine facilitated a radically new experience of rural landscapes.

Malaria and Modernity

In addition to exploring how the state, capitalism, war, and science reshaped the Ottoman frontier, this book develops an argument about the changing relationship between human societies and diseases such as malaria that arise from a complex set of ecological factors. Malaria was the paramount disease of the settlement frontier, because when people changed their modes of habitation and malaria was part of the local ecology, new infections were likely to ensue.49 According to current biomedical understandings, malaria is an illness caused by two main variants of blood-borne parasites: Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum. The more deadly falciparum requires warmer temperatures to thrive and was therefore more likely to spread in the warmer climates.50 Vivax produces milder symptoms but results in recurring infections that could also prove deadly, especially to children. The parasite that causes malaria reproduces within various species of the Anopheles mosquito and is transmitted from one person to another by the mosquito’s bite. Because of this complex chain of transmission, malaria existed to varying extents in many parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa that were warm enough to support the parasite and various anopheline vectors. It spread to the Americas with the Columbian Exchange.51 During the summer months, most of the inhabited world is warm enough to support at least certain forms of malaria under the right conditions. Because the same environments associated with human habitation are amenable to mosquitos, James Webb has rightly called malaria “humanity’s burden,” a “primordial companion” of human societies and the “oldest and cumulatively the deadliest of the human infectious diseases.”52

Malaria was not uniformly present in all times and places, however. Its impact was contingent on many factors. And one must not apply “mosquito determinism” to the course of political events.53 Twentieth-century biomedicine’s burning fixation on the mosquito as the vector of illness can blind us to the ways in which culture and politics also shaped disease as something entangled with all other facets of life.54 Premodern people in Cilicia had sophisticated malaria avoidance strategies that shaped their patterns of movement and settlement in a variety of ways. Settlement, commercial agriculture, war, and technology each interacted with those patterns as well as with the reproductive capacities of mosquitos and the malaria parasite. In many cases, these interactions fueled malaria’s spread. The disease became deeply entrenched within the local ecology even as science and medicine developed new ways of treating malaria and modifying mosquito habitats. However, the burden of malaria was not felt equally by all of humanity. In Çukurova, subjects of Ottoman settlement policies, seasonal workers in the burgeoning plantations, people displaced by war, and villagers far from the center of medical infrastructure disproportionately contracted malaria and died from it. Thus, malaria was a form of “silent violence”55 in the making of the modern world that was masked as a natural and inherent feature of “tropical” environments.

In other words, the history of malaria is political. It speaks to hidden forms of inequality and dispossession not easily quantified in economic terms. Despite its historical importance in many parts of the Ottoman world, it has not received much attention from Ottoman historians. Yet its history is also not uniquely Ottoman. As the work of Katerina Gardikas has recently shown, modern Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire during the early nineteenth century did not liberate it from a remarkably similar experience with malaria to what will be described in this work.56 So while not outside of politics, malaria is a historical question that forges thematic and material connections across political boundaries. Its history is still in the making, as malaria at present kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, and mosquito-borne illnesses require continued monitoring for new strains, as well as new areas of spread and resurgence. In fact, malaria is far from the only major public health issue of today that is rooted in the conditions of a highly commercialized and interconnected world. The deadliest such diseases may await us in the decades to come.

In part, this history of how the making of the modern world changed the nature of epidemic disease explains why colonial settings became sites of malaria research and discovery, and why national public health projects became so preoccupied with malaria eradication during the twentieth century. Diseases like malaria were not only impediments to economic activity; to a large extent, they were manifestations of the ecologies created by colonialism and capitalism.57 Yet the primary goal of this book is not to expose the ravages of colonialism, capitalism, and war, nor is it to question the outsized role of biomedicine in shaping modern society, though these are critiques certainly served by the arguments and material presented in each chapter. The function of malaria in this work is to recenter the lived and embodied experience of ordinary people in the past like Ömer, whose story graced the first pages of this introduction. They were the people whose labor and loss built the modern world. It is worth reflecting on what it cost them.


1. Fethi Ahmet Canpolat and Selçuk Hayli, Pınarbaşı İlçe’sinin (Kayseri) beşeri ve iktisadi coğrafyası (Istanbul: Hiperlink, 2019), 66.

2. The Turkish word mucuk is of Armenian origin. Robert Dankoff, Armenian Loanwords in Turkish (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1995), 108.

3. All information pertaining to “The Lament of Ömer” in Ahmet Z. Özdemir, Öyküleriyle Ağıtlar (Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1994), 263–64. The stories behind folk songs, much like the lyrics themselves, usually circulate in multiple versions. Özdemir cites three men from the area as the source for his explanation and lyrics. An alternate understanding of the lament appears in a Facebook post featuring a video of a live performance of the song by Aşık İmami. According to the caption, Ömer and his father Durmuş had both gone to Adana together to earn money for the wedding, and the lament was in Durmuş’s voice rather than Ömer’s mother’s voice. Shared in Radyo Avşar’ın Sesi (7 January 2012),

4. Yaşar Kemal, Çukurova Yana Yana (Istanbul: Yeditepe Yayınları, 1955), 13.

5. See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987); Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone Books, 1994).

6. See Avner Wishnitzer, Reading Clocks, Alla Turca: Time and Society in the Late Ottoman Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Dale Tomich, “The Order of Historical Time: The Longue Durée and Micro-History,” in The Longue Durée and World-Systems Analysis, ed. Richard E. Lee and Immanuel Wallerstein (New York: State University of New York Press, 2012); Reinhart Koselleck, Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories, trans. Sean Franzel and Stefan Ludwig-Hoffmann (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018); Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life (London: Continuum, 2004).

7. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), 22.

8. See Donald R. Wright, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1997).

9. Olçay Önertoy, “Yaşar Kemal ve Çukurova,” Türk Dili 375 (March 1983): 147.

10. See Yaşar Kemal, Memed, My Hawk (New York: Pantheon, 1961).

11. “‘Çukurova’sını yazmayan hiçbir yazar büyük romancı olamaz,’Milliyet, 3 October 2012.

12. Yaşar Kemal, Ağıtlar: Folklor derlemesi (Istanbul: YKY, 2004), 19–47.

13. Ahmet Taner Kışlalı, “Demokrasi, Roman, Dil, Eğitim, Sanat, Politika Üzerine,” Haftaya Bakış, 22–28 March 1987, via See also Ali Taş, “Yaşar Kemal Çukurova Ödülü,” Yeni Adana, 15 June 2020.

14. See Yiğit Akın, When the War Came Home: The Ottomans’ Great War and the Devastation of an Empire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018), 1; Nazan Maksudyan, Ottoman Children and Youth during World War I (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2019), 10–11.

15. Suraiya Faroqhi, “A Study of Rural Conflicts: Gegbuze/Gebze (District of Üsküdar) in the Mid-1700s,” in Ottoman Rural Societies and Economies: Halcyon Days in Crete VIII, ed. Elias Kolovos (Rethymno: Crete University Press, 2015), 10.

16. J. R. McNeill, “The State of the Field of Environmental History,” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 35, no. 1 (2010): 347.

17. Alan Mikhail, Under Osman’s Tree: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Environmental History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 199. See also Sam White, The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Nükhet Varlık, Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World: The Ottoman Experience, 1347–1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Yaron Ayalon, Natural Disasters in the Ottoman Empire: Plague, Famine, and Other Misfortunes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). For reflections on the emerging field, see Onur İnal, “Environmental History as an Emerging Field in Ottoman Studies: An Historiographical Overview,” Osmanlı Araştırmaları 38 (2011): 1–25; Elizabeth Williams, “Environmental History of the Middle East and North Africa,” in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Middle-Eastern and North African History, ed. Jens Hanssen and Amal N. Ghazal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Christopher S. Rose, “The History of Public Health in the Modern Middle East: The Environmental-Medical Turn,” History Compass 19, no. 5 (2021).

18. Faisal Husain, Rivers of the Sultan: The Tigris and Euphrates in the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021); Michael Christopher Low, Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020); Zozan Pehlivan, “El Niño and the Nomads: Global Climate, Local Environment, and the Crisis of Pastoralism in Late Ottoman Kurdistan,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 63, no. 3 (2020): 316–56; Onur İnal and Yavuz Köse, Seeds of Power: Explorations in Ottoman Environmental History (Winwick, UK: White Horse Press, 2019); Samuel Dolbee, “The Locust and the Starling: People, Insects, and Disease in the Late Ottoman Jazira and After, 1860–1940,” PhD diss., New York University, 2017; Camille Lyans Cole, “Precarious Empires: A Social and Environmental History of Steam Navigation on the Tigris,” Journal of Social History 50, no. 1 (2016): 74–101; Graham Auman Pitts, “Fallow Fields: Famine and the Making of Lebanon,” PhD diss., Georgetown University, 2016; Onur İnal, “A Port and Its Hinterland: An Environmental History of Izmir in the Late-Ottoman Period,” PhD diss., University of Arizona, 2015. See also Caterina Scaramelli, How to Make a Wetland: Water and Moral Ecology in Turkey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2021).

19. Robert Kern, “Ecocriticism: What Is It Good For?” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 7, no. 1 (2000): 11 cited in Enrico Cesaretti, Elemental Narratives: Reading Environmental Entanglements in Modern Italy (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2020), 12.

20. Thomas Albert Perreault, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy, The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology (New York: Routledge, 2015), 7.

21. Jim Igoe, Conservation and Globalization (South Melbourne, Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013), 2.

22. See Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

23. Diana K. Davis, The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016). See also James Fairhead and Melissa Leach, Misreading the African Landscape: Society and Ecology in a Forest-Savanna Mosaic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

24. Jason W. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (New York: Verso, 2016).

25. See John Robert McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016); Christian Parenti and Jason W. Moore, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2016).

26. Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017).

27. Bathsheba Demuth, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Arctic (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019).

28. Myrna I. Santiago, The Ecology of Oil: Environment, Labor, and the Mexican Revolution, 1900–1938 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). See also Casey Marina Lurtz, From the Grounds Up: Building an Export Economy in Southern Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019).

29. Debjani Bhattacharyya, Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019). See also Sunil S. Amrith, Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); Iftekhar Iqbal, The Bengal Delta: Ecology, State and Social Change, 1840–1943 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

30. Prasenjit Duara, “Transnationalism and the Challenge to National Histories,” in Rethinking American History in a Global Age, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), cited in Arbella Bet-Shlimon, City of Black Gold: Oil, Ethnicity, and the Making of Modern Kirkuk (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019), 8.

31. James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783–1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

32. See John F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

33. Mostafa Minawi, The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016); Matthew H. Ellis, Desert Borderland: The Making of Modern Egypt and Libya (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018); Ebubekir Ceylan, The Ottoman Origins of Modern Iraq: Political Reform, Modernization and Development in the Nineteenth-Century Middle East (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011); Nora Elizabeth Barakat, “An Empty Land? Nomads and Property Administration in Hamidian Syria,” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2015; Isacar Bolanos, “Environmental Management and the Iraqi Frontier during the Late Ottoman Period, 1831–1909,” PhD diss., Ohio State University, 2019.

34. Thomas Kuehn, Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference: Ottoman Rule in Yemen, 1849–1919 (Leiden: Brill, 2011).

35. See Reşat Kasaba, A Moveable Empire: Ottoman Nomads, Migrants, and Refugees (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009); Isa Blumı, Ottoman Refugees, 1878–1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World (London: Bloomsbury, 2013); David Cuthell, “The Muhacirin Komisyonu: An Agent in the Transformation of Ottoman Anatolia 1860–1866,” PhD diss., Columbia University, 2005; Ella Fratantuono, “Migration Administration in the Making of the Late Ottoman Empire,” PhD diss., Michigan State University, 2016.

36. Blumı, Ottoman Refugees, 5.

37. Milen V. Petrov, “Tanzimat for the Countryside: Midhat Pasa and the Vilayet of Danube, 1864–1868,” PhD diss., Princeton University, 2006.

38. Frederick Walter Lorenz, “The ‘Second Egypt’: Cretan Refugees, Agricultural Development, and Frontier Expansion in Ottoman Cyrenaica, 1897–1904,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 53, no. 1 (2021): 89–105.

39. Eugene L. Rogan, Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan, 1850–1921 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

40. Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky, “Circassian Refugees and the Making of Amman, 1878–1914,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49, no. 4 (2017): 605–23; Yücel Terzibaşoğlu, “Landlords, Nomads and Refugees: Struggles over Land and Population Movements in North-Western Anatolia [1877–1914],” PhD diss., University of London, 2003; Ebubekir Ceylan, “Carrot or Stick? Ottoman Tribal Policy in Baghdad, 1831–1876,” International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies 3, no. 2 (2009); Yonca Köksal, “Coercion and Mediation: Centralization and Sedentarization of Tribes in the Ottoman Empire,” Middle Eastern Studies 42, no. 3 (2006): 469–91; Yasemin Avcı, “The Application of Tanzimat in the Desert: The Bedouins and the Creation of a New Town in Southern Palestine (1860–1914),” Middle Eastern Studies 45, no. 6 (2009): 969–83; Dawn Chatty, Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Norman N. Lewis, Nomads and Settlers in Syria and Jordan, 1800–1980 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

41. Ümit Kurt, The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021), 3. See also Mehmet Polatel and Ümit Üngör, Confiscation and Colonization: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property (London: Continuum, 2011); Ryan Gingeras, Sorrowful Shores: Violence, Ethnicity, and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 1912–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

42. Heather J. Sharkey, A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 243–89.

43. Nicholas Doumanis, Before the Nation: Muslim-Christian Coexistence and Its Destruction in Late Ottoman Anatolia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

44. See Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (New York: Henry Holt, 2019), 72.

45. Meltem Toksöz, Nomads, Migrants, and Cotton in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Making of the Adana-Mersin region 1850–1908 (Leiden: Brill, 2010). More historiography of Çukurova and the Adana region is cited throughout the notes.

46. See Işık Tamdoğan, “Çukurova” (2013), in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 3rd ed., ed. Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, and Everett Rowson. An interesting indication of the meaning conveyed by this name can be found in the case of a playbill for the Turkish translation of the German opera Tiefland, which itself was based on the Catalan play entitled Terra baixa, both names referring to “lowlands.” The Turkish translator, an opera actress named Saadet (Alp) İkesus rendered the title as “Çukurova.” AK, Muhsin Ertuğrul (ME)-Evr 10292, “Çukurova operası rol dağılımı” (1951).

47. W. F. Albright, “The Origin of the Name Cilicia,” American Journal of Philology 43, no. 2 (1922): 166–67.

48. See William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991).

49. See, for example, Conevery Bolton Valenčius, The Health of the Country (New York: BasicBooks, 2004); M. A. Urban, “An Uninhabited Waste: Transforming the Grand Prairie in Nineteenth Century Illinois, USA,” Journal of Historical Geography 31, no. 4 (2005): 647–65; David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006).

50. P. vivax and P. falciparum have distinct evolutionary histories. Recent research suggests that falciparum first infected human communities through a relatively late cross-species transmission (past 10,000 years) from gorillas, whereas vivax is much older. Dorothy E. Loy et al., “Out of Africa: Origins and Evolution of the Human Malaria Parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax,” International Journal for Parasitology 47, nos. 2–3 (2017): 87–97.

51. See John Robert McNeill, Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

52. James L. A. Webb, Humanity’s Burden: A Global History of Malaria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1.

53. McNeill, Mosquito Empires, 6.

54. See Alexander M. Nading, Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015).

55. Michael Watts, Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).

56. Katerina Gardikas, Landscapes of Disease: Malaria in Modern Greece (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2018).

57. Arabinda Samanta, Malarial Fever in Colonial Bengal, 1820–1939: Social History of an Epidemic (Kolkata: Firma KLM, 2002); Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 13–53; Margaret Humphreys, Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001); Sandra M. Sufian, Healing the Land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920–1947 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). As Anne Marie Moulin notes, “colonialism has contributed to combating a fire which it had in great part kindled.” Anne Marie Moulin, “Tropical without the Tropics: The Turning-Point of Pastorian Medicine in North Africa,” in Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 1500–1900, ed. David Arnold (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996), 173. See also Webb, Humanity’s Burden, 121–23.