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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Architectural Boundaries and the Body

Course Code:
15PARH063
Unit value:
0.5
Year of study:
Any
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • understand themes, issues, and debates related to the study of architecture in general and Islamic architecture in specific;
  •  identify and compare different approaches to the study of Islamic architecture;
  •  assess critically the materials and themes explored in the course.
    Additionally, s/he will be knowledgable of a variety of types of spatial boundaries in the Muslim world, with an emphasis having been placed on these boundaries’ bodily perception and transgression. S/he will have seen the value of engaging with Islamic architecture as a body-related phenomenon; and s/he will have the wherewithal to pursue their own engagements in a theoretically informed dynamic that is gender-aware, culturally based, and society specific.

Workload

2 Hours per week

Scope and syllabus

Scope
This course concerns the perception and traversal of spatial boundaries in the Muslim world. Although it is a commonplace to assert that architecture is the art of setting boundaries, the body is where boundaries are first set and where inside and outside are first perceived, at the moment of birth. The course, then, will commence with the body and its culturally encoded relationship to society and its spaces. But it will also remain with the body, because only by way of the body are boundaries perceived and traversed. Therefore, even as the course considers different kinds of boundaries and their perception and traversal in the Muslim world, the question of gender must necessarily remain in the foreground: whose body is implicated and/or denied in the setting, perception, and crossing of these boundaries? Importantly, not all of these boundaries will be material and worldly, but immaterial and otherworldly; and not all them will be perceived and traversed via the sense of sight, but by the other senses, too, including the inner one of orientation. In view of the foregoing, a fuller, longer title for the course might be, “Crossing boundaries: readings in Muslim bodies, space, and place.”

Aims
The course’s aims are threefold. Firstly, to broaden the students’ knowledge of the range of boundary types in the Muslim world, and simultaneously to expand the traditional subject matter of Islamic architecture to include overlapping, immaterial and/or otherworldly sites and components, what Henri Lefebvre calls a society’s “spaces of representation.” Secondly, to supplement the study of Islamic architecture with spatial analyses in which the perceiving body is local to the site and theorised as a partial effect of culture, its boundaries regulated and encoded. Thirdly, as a result of the foregoing, to problematise the traditional location of the architectural historian, observing from without.

Method of assessment

  • One assignment at 80% (wordcount 4,000 words)
  • One oral test - 10%
  • one seminar presentation - 10%