Saygin Salgirli

Associate Professor

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Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Thinking continuity in the works and milieus of Fahrelnissa Zeid (2020)

This thesis investigates the capacities of modern painting in Turkey from 1914 - 1980 to model and perpetuate streams of thought central to a rapidly developing modernisation programme initially spearheaded by Atatürk, the country’s first President. I undertake this investigation by studying the works of Turkish painter Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901 - 1991), a wealthy noblewoman whose abstract paintings have recently found much superficial acclaim in the West. The following explores how Zeid’s paintings engaged these global idioms and blended them with Turkish, Islamic, and Byzantine painterly traditions to intervene and comment on trajectories of womanhood, capitalism, and modernity in Turkey. This thesis considers these paintings as both a product and perpetuator of many varied abstract machines, bringing into contact disparate ideas, ideologies, and milieus. To this end, my investigation considers Zeid’s use, approach to, or action upon three aspects of her oeuvre: abstraction, the figure, and appropriation. These investigations yield suggestions for fruitful views of Turkey, its histories, and its art history as topologies which are constantly shifting and pressing one another through stratification. Ultimately, this thesis centralizes and innovates upon earlier research done in the area of Turkish modernism (especially that of female artists) and makes suggestions for further critical scholarship to improve the dearth of such work to date. By extension, this analysis creates an incisive view of the artistic contributions integral to Turkey’s contemporary identity as a nation state.

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Visible female power structures in nineteenth century Algeria (2020)

In 1856 French photographer Félix Jacques-Antoine Moulin traveled to Algeria to photograph “types” and “personalities.” He documented a unique female relationship based on sociopolitical hierarchies labeling it “Moor and Her Slave.” Other French photographers such as Alary & Geiser, Claude-Joseph Portier, and Alexandre Leroux copied this female archetype in their photographic collections. This female pairing explores how gender, class, and race are constructed in a non-colonial and colonial landscape through the modalities of visibility. Being seen or seeing is signalled by the veil—which also denotes class and gender. The veil as a sign of visibility is first investigated in the intimate space of the household, and then to the public space of the Islamic slave trade. Within these two zones, the veil, through visibility, constructs personhood as captured by photography. However, since the photographs are all staged, French influences and ideology alter and change the visualization of female relationships. This thesis considers not only the differences between women pictured as “Moor and Her Slave” but the similarities that drive a mutual fear of visibility. Through a close reading of racializing assemblage, I will consider how race, specifically flesh, is assembled alongside gender and class in French photography. Focusing on Algerian Arab and black African female couples, the new medium of photography was able to represent the cultural implications of visibility and invisibility within female hierarchies and French perceptions; consequently, revealing the political dynamics mapped onto female bodies.

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Collaboration as camouflage: the mobilization of art during Cold War scientific exceptionalism (2019)

The proliferation of art-science collaboration in contemporary art necessitates a critical history. This paper is an attempt to do so. One of the first places in which this genre of art was cultivated was at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies founded by Gyorgy Kepes at MIT in the late 1960s. However, this essay is not an examination of what Kepes did—but what was achieved through him. Cold War ideologies from the late 1940s was marked by what Audra Wolfe characterizes as a “scientific exceptionalism” that sought to place science above and beyond the reaches of politics. The parameters structuring art-science collaboration at MIT were in conformity of this exceptionalism: displacing issues of value onto the arts; locating democratic participation downstream of technoscience, in its application, not its epistemology. These parameters in turn contributed to the propagandist engines at large that worked to dissipate efforts to examine the sociopolitical dimensions of science, such as those by the Vienna Circle expatriate Philipp Frank in Kepes’ vicinity. The proliferation of any genre of art suggests vested interest in its saliency. In seeking to understand the science politics in which the Center for Advanced Visual Studies was situated, I contend that art-science was never a collaboration between the artists and the scientists—but a public engagement effort for technoscience through the arts. The distinction drawn between art and science was predicated on, and in servitude of, an exceptionalism that depressed the sociopolitical understanding of science and curtailed its democratic engagement. If we understand how scientific exceptionalism operated through Kepes, we can understand how art was mobilized to help configure the relationship between science and democracy. That art and science exist as distinct entities is irrelevant; that they are entities so profoundly distinct that they need to be reconciled to bring about social betterment is the misattribution of Cold War propaganda.

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Replica chains and the portability of Jerusalem (2019)

Erhard Reuwich’s Map of the Holy Land —found in Bernhard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in terram sanctam—allows for an investigation of the portable nature of Jerusalem. Published in Mainz in 1486, Breydenbach’s pilgrimage guidebook offered the early modern viewer access to an eyewitness account and images of the Holy Land. In Reuwich’s fold-out map, the city of Jerusalem occupies the central viewpoint. In this topographical view, Reuwich labeled the Dome of the Rock (688–692) as the Temple of Solomon. I argue that this reimagining of the structure was due to a desire for visual ownership of this space following Saladin’s conquest of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. Incorporating ideas of transmediality, I suggest that the transformation of the architectural structure to the medium of print allowed the Dome of the Rock as the Temple of Solomon to act as an icon or container to activate sacred memory. I demonstrate that the portability of the guidebook and the medium of print allowed the sites of the Holy Land to cross cultural and geographic boundaries in the early modern period. Jerusalem also functioned as a relic or sacred site for Islam. A fourteenth century Ilkhanid Book of Ascension (Mi‘rajnama) allows for an investigation of the portability of Jerusalem within an Islamic context. This Ilkhanid manuscript painting, found in a Safavid album of calligraphies and paintings, shows the archangel Gabriel transporting the city of Jerusalem to the prophet Muhammad. This image is interpreted within the context of the Prophet’s night journey to Jerusalem. To demonstrate the Prophet’s autoptic authority, the archangel Gabriel brought Jerusalem in its entirety to Mecca. Focusing on Jerusalem as a site of cross-cultural encounters, Reuwich’s the Map of the Holy Land and the manuscript painting from the Book of Ascension (Mi‘rajnama) allows for an examination of Jerusalem as a liminal space.

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The monstrosity of text: gender tensions in early modern English pamphlets, 1550 - 1650 (2018)

The advent of print and specifically the pamphlet in the sixteenth-century created a new moment for the monster, a time of religious upheaval and gender tensions in which the pamphlet emerged as a way for the literate but no longer only the wealthy and privileged to engage in public discourse. My thesis considers the use of the monster in early modern print in England, arguing that it is the reappropriation of the visual and rhetorical offerings of earlier versions of the monster which makes it a culturally convenient symbol in a time of political instability and revolution. Drawing on an extended history of the symbol of the monster, this work considers the impulse to frame behavior inside the notion of the monstrous, and the ways an imagined monster can appear out of nowhere and disrupt society. As part of a larger concern at the time around women and their conduct, the pamphlet operated as a cultural technology that could sanction, reform or deny the categories of normalcy and deviancy, a tool that simultaneously created and contained the monster. The prolific publishing of pamphlets by men in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (namely those focusing on monstrous births, controversial fashions, political involvement and sexual deviance) evidences not only the desire to control the behaviour of women but also the ways in which women were resisting this control through retaliatory pamphleteering and publishing, petitioning and self-fashioning. By using these monstrous bodies in print, the stories and the pamphlets become part of a larger narrative of internal and external monstrousness within society. I argue that the content of these pamphlets provides historical evidence of women’s considered political engagement and agency, a disruption that invited the monster in to do the cultural work of embodying religious, political and gender tensions in revolutionary England.

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Umayyad Jerusalem and the Production of Social Spaces (2016)

Following the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in the early 7th century, the new rulers of the city almost immediately began a series of architectural, administrative, and urban development projects. I will be focusing specifically on several projects undertaken during the Umayyad dynasty. So far, there have been extensive discussions locating the ways in which the Umayyads made political and religious claims to Jerusalem. I will expand on this scholarship by looking at and integrating a third facet: the social. By examining how, during the Umayyad period, new public spaces were produced and used in Jerusalem, how construction projects attracted and retained skilled workers in the city, and how the government and the community encouraged and demonstrated an amenability towards a dynamic economy, we will broaden our understanding of how cities are built in both medieval and current contexts. More specifically, it will reveal how a social method contributed to an Islamic claim to Jerusalem, but at the same time, establish the city as a destination point for travelers of diverse backgrounds.

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