Mapping Tribes: Ottoman Spatial Thinking in Iraq and Arabia, c. 1910

Camille Lyans Cole, Nora Elizabeth Barakat, Nada Ammagui, David Joseph Wrisley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article uses mixed digital methods to analyze a 1909/1910 Ottoman map of “tribal” territories in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula that builds on existing Ottoman modes of depicting land and people to create a novel assertion of territoriality across the region. We analyze a digital artifact, created by joining the map to its companion informational table, to identify gaps and moments of uncertainty in the imperial knowledge-production process. We then read the map alongside a variety of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Ottoman and British sources of different genres which also address the production of imperial territoriality in the region. While the differences in how these sources collect and present information prevent us from drawing direct data comparisons, visualizations of data derived from these sources enable us to explore the contours of an expansive project of Ottoman sovereignty across Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, and to situate that project in a broader framework of inter-imperial competition. We argue that this kind of exploratory digital combination reveals the expansive nature of the late Ottoman imperial project, and its completist aims, in contrast to common depictions of the late Ottoman state as contracting and its governing practices as “flexible” or “fuzzy.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-242
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Arabian Peninsula
  • British Empire
  • GIS
  • Iraq
  • Ottoman Empire
  • historical geography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Religious studies
  • Law


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