Session at the 3rd International Meeting of European Architectural History Network (EAHN), Turin, 2014

One of SEAARC members will be at the EAHN 3rd International Meeting at Turin. Jiat-Hwee is chairing the session “European Architecture and the Tropics”, scheduled to be held between 3.45pm and 6.30pm on Friday, June 20, 2014.

A 1887 poster -- "The five zones showing in a graphic manner the climates, peoples, industries & productions of the Earth"

A 1887 poster — “The five zones showing in a graphic manner the climates, peoples, industries & productions of the Earth”

European Architecture and the Tropics

Chair: Jiat-Hwee Chang, National University of Singapore

Below is the CFP  for the session. 

Europeans have a long history of social, cultural and economic contacts and exchanges with the people of the Tropics. Although this history can be traced to an earlier time, it intensified in the past few centuries, with extensive formal and informal colonization
of tropical territories by Europeans. The circulation and translation of architectural knowledge and practices between Europe and the Tropics is an inextricable part of this long and rich history.

By choosing the Tropics over other geographic categories, this session foregrounds the environmental and climatic dimensions of this history of exchange. This session will focus on how European architectural knowledge and practices were ‘acclimatized’ to the ecologies, heat and humidity of the Tropics. However, tropicalization entailed more
than just environmental and climatic adaptations. Scholars in various interdisciplinary fields, particularly environmental and medical history, have shown that the tropicalization of European knowledge and practices involved social, cultural and political transformations
too. David Arnold developed the concept of tropicality to suggest that tropical nature – of which climate is an important component – could be understood along the lines of Saidian Orientalism as an environmental ‘other’, deeply entwined with social, cultural, political, racial and gender alterities in contrast to the normality of the temperate zone. Tropicality is, however, not a monolithic category. Not only have the constructions of the Tropics varied with the changing social, cultural and political conditions of European colonization in the past few decades, they have also changed based on the shifting medical,
environmental and other scientific paradigms of understanding the Tropics. How this climatic ‘other’ has been addressed architecturally by various actors at different historical moments has likewise been characterized by multifarious approaches.

This session invites papers that examine in a situated manner how European architecture has been tropicalized in any historical period at any tropical site. Tropicalization is of course not a one-way diffusionist process. Just as this session explores European architecture in the Tropics, the very notion of European architecture is neither immune to outside influence nor necessarily produced solely by Europeans. This session also, therefore, invites papers that explore how European architecture outside the Tropics was transformed by tropicalization and how European architecture might have been a hybrid entity coproduced by non-Europeans.

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