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Wilderness Urbanisms: Architecture, Landscape, and Travel in Precolonial India

Tamara Sears, Yale University, Fellow 2015–2016

My fellowship year was dedicated to expanding the theoretical and methodological framework for my second book, which focuses on the relationships among architecture, landscape, mobility, and travel in Southern Asia. The project initially began as a study of the relationship between rivers and temple urbanism in central India at the turn of the first millennium, but it has since grown to span a vast chronology, extending from ca. 650 to the present day. At its heart is a range of important yet overlooked sites that originally emerged as outposts along north-south routes. In addition to facilitating trade, pilgrimage, and military campaigns, these places played a vital role in linking inland cities to the seaports that connected India to a wider world. On a theoretical level, I have worked to find new ways to bridge the gap between precolonial histories and presentist modes of inquiry by turning attention to the central role that landscapes have played not only in the distribution and forms of monuments but also in the politics, perception, and (re)production of place over the longue durée. Through conversations this year, I have become more immersed in the pragmatics of landscape and in thinking through lenses of design and environmental management in order to broaden my approach. Given that landscape is rarely foregrounded in discussions of pre-Mughal Indian architecture, I was also very grateful for the perspectives of scholars in other fields, whose comments have sharpened my discussion in many enduring and valuable ways.