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Transcultural Mediators, Strategies and Entangled Modernities: Transportation and Infrastructure in the Imperial Ports of Odessa and Varna in the 19th Century

Lyubomir Pozharliev

The objective of the project is to reconstruct the transottoman interactions in the Black Sea region by analysing the establishment of the steam shipping transportation system in the 19th century and the infrastructures related to it. Biographies and practical intercultural mediation strategies of key figures in the port cities of Odessa and Varna will be central for the study. The development of the steam shipping transportation system had a cumulative effect upon the establishment of other types of transport infrastructures such as railways, roads, the post and the telegraph, as well as for the development of the trade, banking and insurance sectors. In the case of Varna, this concerned accounting and trade law, or in the case of Odessa, the education of captains, machine operators and other specialists. It also led to the introduction of new diplomatic relations such as consulates or companies’ international branches. The research will be divided into three parts. The first one reflects upon the roles of the two port cities as transimperial places of transfer of knowledge and transregional networks. The second one contextualizes the Varna and Odessa ports as centres of cross-cultural, commercial and political influence in the Ottoman and Russian Empires and beyond during the 19th century. Finally, the third and most important part analyses the very institutionalisation of the steam shipping transportation system in the Black Sea as a result of transcultural practices and experiences. The study will follow the methodological frame of the entangled histories and modernities in the fields of cultural history and biography studies. This includes the interpretative analysis of original sources such as normative documents, diaries and letters, the visual analysis of photo archives as well as network analysis.