Theory and History of Art and Design
Rhode Island School of Design
In this talk, Ijlal Muzaffar will look at what has been a blindspot in architectural histories of non-Western modernism: the meaning of land. Before a building is put up, a plan is drawn, what histories have shaped the meaning of land, from the scale of an empire to a silt particle floating in water? Does architectural understanding of scale and materiality have something critical to say about it? Muzaffar will explore these questions with a story both global and personal that unfolds when the British colonial government began digging canals in the Sindh desert in India in 1898 to grow cotton. The small farmers settled in the new colonies (my family amongst them) were met, however, not with the promised water but with a rebellion from the followers of Sufi saints that occupied the land and considered it holy. Who’s meaning does the land hold, the imperial bureaucrat defending the empire’s economy, the settler holding a British quail-hunting rifle at the approaching sound of rebel horsemen at night, or the Scottish engineer trying to keep the silt particles miraculously afloat in the new canals?