(Residential Fellow, 2018-19)
Fire and Water: The Hydrothermal Landscapes of the Balkans in Western Travel Literature
Dr. Peychev earned his PhD in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In his dissertation, entitled The Nature of the Ottoman City: Water Management and Urban Space in Sofia, 1380s–1910s, he employs an environmental perspective in order to address the natural ecology of urban life through a focus on water management and usage. At the same time, he uses the notion of nature metaphorically to introduce a discussion of the characteristic mechanisms of Ottoman urbanism and problematize the narrative of ruin and decay that underpins the dominant discourse on the Ottoman period in Sofia’s history.
His current project is entitled “Fire and Water: The Hydrothermal Landscapes of the Balkans in Western Travel Literature.” It explores two interrelated themes: 1) the development of geology and hydrology in the early modern and modern periods, from the sixteenth century to World War I; and 2) the history of scientific travel and exploration in the same timeframe, with a focus on voyages to Southeast Europe and the Middle East.
The main objective of the project is to find out how the information on the Balkans’ geological and hydrothermal characteristics was situated in the overall study of the peninsula. How was this scientific knowledge incorporated into the study of the region’s peoples and cultures? How did Southeast Europe’s affinity for the healing and sacral properties of spring water inform Western travelers’ perceptions of the region as ‘other’ vis-à-vis the places these travelers were coming from? What role did this literature play in the formation of a comprehensive image of the region?