Being imperial, being ephemeral: Ottoman modernity on Gaza's Seashoe

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Dokumentart: BookPart
Date: 2023-02
Source: Ben-Bassat, Yuval; Büssow, Johann: From the Household to the Wider World. Tübingen University Press 2022
Language: English
Other Keywords: Gaza
port cities
maritime nodal point
Eastern Mediterranean
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Gaza of the late Ottoman period was integrated into an imperial web of Eastern Mediterranean port cities. As a maritime nodal point exporting grain grown in the arid terrains of southern Palestine, it enjoyed a peculiar status. This article explores the mate- rialization of this status in the form of two interrelated urban institutions, a maritime pier and a municipal hospital. It is argued here that Gaza’s pier-hospital construction project between 1893 and World War I exposed tensions and conflicts that radiated outwards in concentric circles, from the urban to the provincial and then to the imperial, bringing into play the very pillars of imperial modernity: public health and economic development, and the related question of which strata of the Ottoman body politic would dominate the two. Further along in the pier-hospital project’s realization, the same fault-lines informed an inter-imperial conflict between the Ottomans and their European rivals over the shore of Gaza, such that this modest sea outlet transformed into a global arena of struggle for political legitimacy and economic sovereignty. Probing the undercurrents of this conflict, the article ultimately returns to the materiality of the pier-hospital initiative to argue for the peculiar modernity engendered by Gaza’s imperial status, one that was ephemeral as it encompassed states of construction and of ruin almost simultaneously.

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