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Curated conversations with contemporary critics on architecture, and architectural thinking.

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Feb 28, 2018

 Mud brick fortifcation walls from the 10th century at Merv, Turkmenistan SOURCE: Manu Sobti

Mud brick fortification walls from the 10th century at Merv, Turkmenistan SOURCE: Manu Sobti

Dr. Manu P. Sobti, Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Director of the Higher Degree Research Program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, discusses his co-authored GAHTC module, Peripheries of Contact, which explores the architecture and urbanism created by migrant populations who traversed Central Asia and engaged with 'settled' peoples at the edges of their world. We discuss migration, loss and memory; graphic design, photography and cultural landscapes; the Mongols, Timurs, Uzbeks, Russians, Delhi Sultanates and Islamic identity in the medieval times.



MANU P. SOBTI is an Islamic architecture and urban historian, specifically focused on examining changing borderlands in the Asia-Pacific. Prior to his recent arrival at the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture as Senior Lecturer and Director of the Higher Degree Research Program, he served as Associate Professor at the School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee USA, Coordinator of SARUP-UWM’s India Winterim and Uzbekistan Summer Program (2008-15), and directed the Building-Landscapes-Cultures (BLC) Concentration of SARUP-UWM’s Doctoral Program (2011-13) in partnership with the Art History Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sobti also chaired SARUP's PhD Committee between 2014-16, leading an area of BLC's research consortium titled Urban Histories and Contested Geographies. Mapping urbanity and its scalar geographies feature prominently in his ongoing projects, a vantage determining how future urbanists view the multiplicity of emergent stakeholders within the contentious realms of the historical city and its changing meanings. His recent explorations have focused on the urban histories of early-medieval, Islamic cities along the Silk Road and the Indian Subcontinent, with specific reference to the complex, ‘borderland geographies’ created by riverine landscapes. Within a trans-disciplinary examination of medieval Eurasian landscapes straddling the region’s Amu Darya River, he is completing a project entitled The Sliver of the Oxus Borderland: Medieval Cultural Encounters between the Arabs and Persians – an unprecedented work on the historical, geo-politics of the Amu Darya, collating his extensive fieldwork and employing multiple Arabic, Persian, Russian and Uzbek sources. The Oxus borderland is also the subject of his ongoing filmic project entitled Medieval Riverlogues (intended for Public Television) which captures archival research within a re-drawn map series, state of the art computer-generated renderings and live footage on this cultural crucible, while suggesting provocative connections to enduring questions on cultural ‘indigeneities’ and identities, sustainability and resources. Mapping and the spatial humanities remain central to his work on the fast-changing urbanscapes of Delhi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad & Bhopal, documented in the completion of two forthcoming book manuscripts - the first titled Space and Collective Identity in South Asia: Migration, Architecture and Urban Development (under contract with I. B. Tauris Press, expected April 2018); the second titled Riverine Landscapes, Urbanity and Conflict: Narratives from East and West (under contract with Routledge Press, expected Dec. 2017). His continuing work on contemporary architecture and urbanism in Asia has resulted in a third publication entitled Chandigarh Rethink (ORO Publishers, published June 2017).