Although all of the public programs and seminars for RAP are cancelled until at least September 1, we would like to share with you past lectures given by our fellows in a new virtual program: RAP in the Archives.
In honor of our regular Tuesday evening lectures, every Tuesday going forward we will share a lecture from a previous season. Typically, we have not made these lectures available on our website as we recognize that they are works in progress, and we want to give our fellows the freedom to intellectually experiment. Many of our past fellows, however, have generously allowed us to share their lecture recordings. This program is a promise for the future moment when once again we will be able to gather in the Manton auditorium. We share these lectures so that we may remember what fellowship means in this time of fear, uncertainty, and loss.
In the early 1340s, the sultan of Delhi tasked the famed Moroccan traveler, Ibn Battuta, with the job of accompanying a group of Mongol emissaries on their return voyage to China. Their route to the western Indian seaports took them on a meandering journey, following the flow of rivers and fortified outposts that punctuated the otherwise vast tracts of dense and dangerous forest. Bringing together real world perambulations with visual and literary representations of this wilderness landscape, this lecture examines the close relationship between human mobility and architecture, and it reflects on the inherent mutability of both built and natural environments.
It is hard to believe that it has been three years since my spring semester at the Clark. I was then in transition into a new academic position, and my time in Williamstown gave me a much-needed opportunity to slow down and rethink critical portions of my second book project, largely an environmental history project which examines the relationships among architecture, natural landscapes, and travel in Southern Asia. My talk was drawn from a chapter on military travel and wilderness landscapes following the establishment of Indo-Islamic states in the Indian subcontinent. The talk gave me the opportunity to further develop material that I had presented in more preliminary form while on fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks and the National Humanities Center and that had been published in parts in shorter essays and articles. During my time at the Clark, I was able to tap into additional colonial-era sources that enabled me to refine and significantly expand the scope of my arguments for that chapter in particular. Williamstown is a truly beautiful place in the winter and offers an idyllic retreat. I will be forever grateful for the intellectual community that fostered many conversations not only with other fellows but also with faculty at Williams and with scholars who participated in the robust cycle of Clark seminars and workshops.