Stefan Peychev

Contact Information

History
309 Gregory Hall
810 S Wright
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
View CV

Research Interests

  • Ottoman History
  • History of the Islamic World
  • Global History
  • History and Theory of Travel
  • The Question of the 'Other'
  • Environmental History
  • Urban History

Research Description

I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working under the direction of Professors Maria Todorova (advisor), Kenneth Cuno, Keith Hitchins, and Helaine Silverman. My dissertation is entitled “The Nature of the Ottoman City: Water Management and Urban Identity in Sofia (1380s–1920s)."

In “The Nature of the Ottoman City,” I employ 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, I use 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. I argue that the Ottomans built strategically, managing to integrate their own ideas of an urban environment with the natural conditions and the technological traditions of the region into a coherent system of water management. The combined efforts of local, provincial, and central authorities, as well as the vested interests of Sofia’s residents in the proper functioning of a public good, ensured the constant upkeep of the system.

The holistic nature of environmental research and its resistance to the chronological constraints of political history allow me to expand my work to encompass the first four decades of the post-Ottoman period in Sofia’s history. Challenging the dominance of the grand narratives of rapid modernization and de-Ottomanization, elaborated in the Ottoman successor states as the legitimate framework for the study of modernity, I argue that while the level of reconfiguration of urban space in Sofia in the decades following the end of Ottoman rule was indeed staggering, some of the main directions in the transformation of the urban fabric had already been charted in the Ottoman period. My research points specifically to a remarkable degree of continuity in the management of the city’s water infrastructure, an area that was otherwise at the forefront of the modernization project.

In my dissertation I rely on a rich pool of Ottoman primary sources demonstrating the perspectives of local actors and central authorities. The documents originate from pious foundations, law courts, as well as a variety of other local and central administrative bodies. Additionally, I emphasize the significance of archaeological evidence for the study of Ottoman Sofia whose material vestiges have largely disappeared from the surface of the modern city. My discussion of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century urban renewal projects is based on a comparative reading of Ottoman and Bulgarian municipal documentation, newspapers, as well as memoirs of contemporaries.

Education

  • Intensive Ottoman and Turkish Summer School, Ottoman Studies Foundation, Cunda, Turkey, June-August 2011
  • M.A. Bulgarian History, University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, 2003
  • B.A. History, University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, 2002

Grants

  • Turkish Cultural Foundation Fellowship in Turkish Culture and Art, 2013-2014
  • American Research Center in Sofia Fellowship, 2012-2013
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of History Research Fellowship, 2011-2012
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate College Dissertation Travel Grant, 2011
  • Council for European Studies/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship, June-August 2010

Selected Publications

Book Contributions

Peychev, Stefan The Image of the City: Public Baths and Urban Space in Western Travelers’ Descrptions of Ottoman Sofia The City in the Muslim World: Depictions by Western Travel Writers edited by Mohammad Gharipour, edited by Nilay Özlü. The Image of the City: Public Baths and Urban Space in Western Travelers’ Descrptions of Ottoman Sofia Edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Edited by Nilay Özlü, Abingdon and New York Routledge 2015, p. 101-120.

Journal Articles

Peychev, Stefan Public Baths and Urban Space: The Case of Ottoman Sofia Perspectives on Europe 41 2 2011, p. 89-91.