EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 27 Apr 2016 | 17:00–18:30

The Automobile and American Commercialism in Early 20th Century Middle East

Saima Akhtar (Irmgard Coninx Fellow of the Forum Transregionale Studien 2015/16), Chair: Elizabeth M. Holt (Bard College / EUME Fellow 2015/16)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Automobiles, streetscapes, and infrastructure have reconfigured cities along socio-economic and political lines, and, over the last century, have also been important tools in nation building and forging transregional alliances. Taking the first third of the twentieth century as a temporal frame, this talk examines the presence of American automotive enterprises in the greater Middle East, with a focus on Fordist ideologies and advertising. In an effort to outbid other Western competitors at the start of the First War, the makers of the Ford tractor and automobile approached the capital cities of Egypt, Turkey, and India as a trifecta that created a geographic gateway into the “markets of the Orient.” Using the medium of film, newsletters, and photography, this talk looks at the development of Fordist commercial strategies in the region and the narratives that were constructed under the banner of American technological prowess. The ads used the automobile to communicate messages of urban modernity and advancement, while effectively carving out new markets and geographies for the use and production of Ford products.

Saima Akhtar is an architect and designer whose research focuses on the relationship between corporate enterprise, labor migrations, and the built environment. She holds bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a master’s degree in the history, theory, and criticism of architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received a PhD in urban studies from the University of California, Berkeley and has published in the International Journal of Islamic Architecture and the Journal of Urban History.

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