LAWRENCE – While many volumes have been written on the decolonization of the British Empire in India and its partitions, creating in 1947 the bifurcated state of Pakistan and then in 1971 Bangladesh, the phenomenon has not been looked at through the lens of art and architecture.
It’s that project upon which Farhan Karim, University of Kansas assistant professor of architecture & design, has embarked. He is co-directing with Maristella Casciato, senior curator of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute, and art historian Zirwat Chowdhury a three-year research project on the art and architectural history of South Asia under the aegis of and with funding from the institute.
The first phase of the project, a workshop on “The Art and Architecture of Partition and Confederation: Pakistan 1933-1971,” was held at GRI in October. Fourteen scholars presented their work relating to the topic. The idea is to follow up over the next two years with a symposium on the topic and finally an edited volume of scholarship.
The Getty Research Institute is part of the Getty Center, comprising the J. Paul Getty Museum and other entities founded by the J. Paul Getty Trust, in Los Angeles.
In 2017, Karim received a Mellon-Volkswagen Fellowship to spend a year away from teaching, working on a book looking at the subject more strictly from an architectural-history angle. His departure was delayed, however, and he’s about to leave for Germany in December. He’ll be working at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (Center for Modern Oriental Studies) in Berlin.
The Getty project is different in that it adds art to the mix and seeks to broaden out the areas of inquiry by bringing in scholars who have studied what Karim called “histories of decolonization, partition and confederation in geographies outside Pakistan,” e.g., Israel/Palestine and East/West Germany.