Panel at Society of Architectural Historians Conference, 2014

Two of SEAARC members will be at the SAH 2014 Conference at Austin, Texas. We are both involved in the session “Architectural Histories of Maritime Asia”, scheduled to be held between 3pm and 5.15pm on Thursday, April 10. You can find the abstracts of all the presentations here.

Architectural Histories of Maritime Asia

Chair: Jiat-Hwee Chang, National University of Singapore

1. The Structural Imprint of Coastal Exchange: Kuwait 1650-1950
Sandra Al-Saleh Equilibrium, Kuwait

2. Southeast Asian bungalows beyond ‘Indische’  or ‘Black and White’
Imran bin Tajudeen, National University of Singapore, Singapore

3. Chinatown Urbanism: Architecture, Migrancy, and Modernity in Asia
Sujin Eom, University of California, Berkeley, USA

4. The World Through a Roof: The Observational Hut in Nineteenth-Century Japan
Matthew Mullane, Princeton University, USA

Below is the original CFP that we have written for the session. The published version is shortened.

Long-distance maritime travel and trade have connected coastal societies for millennia, and nowhere is this borne out in the longue durée more strongly than in the network of seas, bordering the Indian and Pacific Oceans, that connect maritime Asia. Historians have long explored the rich and deep maritime connections in different parts of the world that preceded the advent of European imperialism and the “modern” world – from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea, from the Indian Ocean to the Java Sea. We have in mind works such as Denys Lombard’s Le Carrefour Javanais: essai d’histoire globale (1990) and Anthony Reid’s Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce (1988) that were influenced by Fernand Braudel’s pioneering study of the Mediterranean world, and explored how maritime connections shaped Southeast Asian histories. In the case of the Indian Ocean, Engseng Ho’s The Graves of Tarim (2006), among others, has demonstrated the transcultural connections and exchanges between southern Arabia, East Africa and the littoral world of South and Southeast Asia.

These works have shown extensive socio-cultural linkages that reveal the limits of a historiography that is premised on a continental conception of the world, i.e. a world divided according to the principle of land masses. With perhaps the rare exception of Nancy Um’s The Merchant Houses of Mocha (2009), the architectural and urban morphological historiography of Asia has not adequately addressed the spatial connectedness – linking regions separated by area studies specializations – and temporal depth – from pre-colonial to the post-colonial contemporary world – that the study of maritime connections in Asia offers. Furthermore, attending to maritime Asia helps to interrogate and expand on the mainstream approaches to the architectural historiography of Asia. For example, vernacular architecture studies tend to assume vernacular architecture as a timeless entity bounded to particular localities and ignore the formative influences of broader maritime networks. Although studies in colonial architecture in Asia have been attentive to how extra-local colonial networks shaped the colonial architecture of a particular site, they have largely ignored “indigenous” maritime connections and linkages. Likewise, while studies in colonial architecture draw our attention to how past colonial knowledge and practices shape the post-colonial present, they have sidelined the influences of pre-colonial maritime histories.

This session seeks to address these oversights. It calls for situated architectural studies which foreground the dynamic interactions that took place across maritime Asia linking the coastal regions of southern Arabia, Persia and the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. The emphasis upon connections and interactions is aimed at questioning existing categories and periodization that assume geographically bounded and temporally static Asian architectural traditions and cultures. We welcome papers that explore any aspect of how maritime connections in Asia have shaped the built environment. Topics include, but are not restricted to, studies of how building types, builders (clients, craftsmen and “architects”) and building practices (crafts and techniques) circulated and transformed through maritime networks in Asia. We are especially interested in papers that challenge the classifications and underlying assumptions of mainstream architectural historiography.

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