- Convenors: Peter Scriver, Amit Srivastava
Conceptions of Asia have shifted decisively over the last two decades. Twenty years since the Centre for Asian and Middle-Eastern Architecture (CAMEA) was established in 1997, yet still in the midst of the perennially fraught spatial politics of national and regional becoming, the intellectual framing of geographies and architectures of difference seems increasingly anachronistic if not irrelevant to the prerogatives of the early 21st century. In the context of this new ‘Asian’ century – an epoch that has arguably been transformed by the globalisation of modernity/capitalism, and the veritable revolution in communication technologies since the 1990s – long-laboured concepts such as site, place, region and, not least, cultural identity need to be reconsidered by scholars of Architecture and built environment if we seek to advance our tellings of Asia’s architectural pasts in ways understandable and relevant to the present. The inaugural symposium of the Society of Architectural Historians - Asia (SAH-Asia) hosted at the University of Melbourne in July 2016, invited participants to focus critically on the architectural and urban historiography of Southeast Asia as a lens to engage in a broader conversation about ‘Asia as Method’. In the second annual SAH-Asia Symposium, to be hosted by CAMEA at the University of Adelaide in July 2017, we seek to resume and extend that conversation, but simultaneously to challenge some of its premises in critically productive ways.
Through a two-ended strategy, the aim, on one hand, is to expand, to shift, and to question the various frames through which ‘Asia’ may be claimed (regarded, defined, delimited) as a distinctive domain for historical and theoretical inquiry about architecture. On the other hand, the strategic counterpoint of this symposium is to focus the question of method on a rigorous consideration of how the discipline of Architecture itself, and debates we may have about its proper content and limits, offer distinctive lenses through which architectural scholarship can provide powerful insight – on/in its own terms – into the social, cultural and political histories of Asia.
But, how might we do this?
To consider fully and fruitfully what “Architecture as Method” could actually mean we may be obliged to question more closely than usual the disciplinary ground on which we stand. What do we infer when we invoke the term ‘Architecture’? Is this simply buildings (houses, temples, monuments, etc.) or, to be more discerning, just a “better class” of such built objects and infrastructure that social processes and cultural practices have produced? Or, is Architecture not also a producer in its own right, a method through which social relations and cultural values are continuously being reproduced if not constructed a-new?
From this standpoint, moreover, the very production of Architecture begs closer scrutiny as we seek more discerning ways to understand these dynamic and integral relationships between the built and the social architectures of past and present-day Asia, where the delamination of physical geographies from the lived geographies of place is increasingly a reality.
In the contemporary context of mobile if not global building culture, for instance, how could we re-engage productively in the study of local architectural knowledges, and the linguistic peculiarities that may lend these unique conceptual nuance and/or critical clarity, not by refuting our extra-disciplinary knowledge of other theoretical frameworks that have dominated Western academe in recent decades, but by returning specifically to the language of architectural tectonics to build a more robust and genuinely synthetic interdisciplinary understanding?
Proposals (300 words) are invited for papers that may explore any facet of the history or theory of the Architecture of greater Asia – from Japan, to India, to the Middle-East – but that will demonstrate (or debate) the potential of rigorous scholarship, firmly grounded within the discipline of Architecture, to give substantive form and structure, not just illustrative content, to broader explanations and theories of cultural order and social change.
Please email the abstract with author details and institutional affiliation to amit.srivastava[at]adelaide.edu.au
Please put "Re Asia: Architecture as Method" in subject line.