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Anna Lise Seastrand

"Trees and the Ecologies of Sacred Art in Southern India"

Anna Lise Seastrand

Fellow, Garden and Landscape Studies

Every south Indian temple possesses its own sacred tree, associated with the god or saint worshipped there. But in an age of environmental change, Seastrand has visited several temples where the trees have died – parched by cement-covered ground, weakened by the failure of rain, or washed out by floods. This project asks, what happens when a sacred tree dies? How does a community, its traditions, rituals, or temple recover from such loss? This project on the ecologies of sacred art in southern India takes as its archive trees and their early modern representations in text, image, and ritual. She brings these into dialogue with contemporary adaptations made in consequence of changing modes of construction and the repercussions of climate change.

Anna Lise Seastrand is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota. She is broadly interested in the embodied experiences of sacred space, portraiture, and the relationships between text and image. Her publications focus on the art and architecture of early modern southeast India; she is also involved in a number of collaborative interdisciplinary projects, including “Interwoven: Sonic and Visual Histories of Indian Ocean Worlds” and “Temples of the Heart: Making a Home for Vishnu in Tirukkurungudi.” Her first book manuscript, Body, History, and Myth: South Indian Murals, 1550–1800 was awarded the 2022 Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities from the American Institute of Indian Studies.