Dr Manu P. Sobti

Senior Lecturer

School of Architecture
Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology
m.sobti@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 61215

Overview

Dr. Sobti is an Islamic architecture and urban historian, previously Associate Professor at the School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee USA. He has a B.Dipl.Arch. from the School of Architecture-CEPT (Ahmedabad - India), an SMarchS. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge - USA), and a Ph.D. from the College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta - USA).

As a recognized scholar and innovative educator, he served as director of SARUP-UWM’s India Winterim Program (2008-15). This foreign study program worked intensively with local architecture schools in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Chandigarh, allowing students and faculty to interact actively, often within the gamut of the same project. Sobti also set up a similar, research-focused program in Uzbekistan, engaging advanced undergraduate and graduate students to undertake field research at sites, archives and cultural landscapes. In partnership with the Art History Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and SARUP colleagues, Sobti also coordinated the Building-Landscapes-Cultures (BLC) Concentration of SARUP-UWM’s Doctoral Program (2011-13), creating opportunities for student research in diverse areas of architectural and urban history, and in multiple global settings. He served as the Chair of SARUP's PhD Committee between 2014-16, leading an area of BLC's research consortium titled Urban Histories and Contested Geographies.

Research Impacts

Mapping urbanity and its myriad of scalar geographies features prominently in Dr. Sobti's ongoing research projects and fieldwork explorations. He views this examination as a vantage that determines how future urbanists explore the multiplicity of emergent stakeholders within the contentious realms of the historical city with its continually changing meanings. Besides examining place, culture and world-view in the mercurial, Asia-Pacific region of the future, his position also underscores how and why these urbanities serve as a lasting legacy of cultures and peoples, and especially so in settings where urban artifacts frame the memories of space and time.

Dr. Sobti's recent explorations have focused on the urban histories of early-medieval, Islamic cities along the Silk Road and the Indian Subcontinent, with specific reference to the complex, ‘borderland geographies’ created by riverine landscapes. Within a trans-disciplinary examination of medieval Eurasian landscapes straddling the region’s Amu Darya River, he is completing a manuscript entitled The Sliver of the Oxus Borderland: Medieval Cultural Encounters between the Arabs and Persians (expected completion Fall 2018). This unprecedented work on the historical, geo-politics of the Amu Darya, collates extensive fieldwork in libraries and repositories employing multiple Arabic, Persian, Russian and Uzbek sources. The Oxus borderland is also the subject of his ongoing film documentary project entitled Medieval Riverlogues (90 minutes, intended for Public Television) which captures archival research within a re-drawn map series, state of the art computer-generated renderings and live footage on this Central Asian cultural crucible, suggesting provocative connections to our enduring questions on cultural ‘indigeneities’ and identities, sustainability and resources. Mapping and the spatial humanities also remain central to his work on the fast-changing urbanscapes of Delhi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad & Bhopal, documented in the completion of two forthcoming book manuscripts - the first titled Space and Collective Identity in South Asia: Migration, Architecture and Urban Development (under contract with I. B. Tauris Press, expected 2017); the second titled Riverine Landscapes, Urbanity and Conflict: Narratives from East and West (under contract with Ashgate Press, expected 2017). His continuing work on contemporary architecture and urbanism in the Asia region has resulted in multiple student exchanges, exhibitions and international seminars (2008-15), and a third publication entitled Chandigarh Rethink (ORO Press-USA, published March 2017; see https://www.amazon.com/Chandigarh-Re-think-Transforming-Ruralities-Urbanities/dp/1939621364).

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Georgia Institute of Technology, Altanta USA

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • My emphasis on developing the biographies of Borderlands and Borderscapes challenges prevalent notions of the so-called ‘left-behind’, the inconsequential, and the spaces of abandonment that characterise ‘cultural’ passages and choreographies of peoples in space and time. Liminal spaces evolved and produced at borders/frontiers are viewed as provocative junctures of disciplinary and trans-disciplinary inclusions and exclusions, allowing opportunities for multiple methodological experimentations. In effect, our research on Borderlands and Borderscapes will engage not just the formal and spatial nature of these limiting zones, but also interrogate the situations of conflict that potentially result from these contested demarcations.

  • Our studies on Riverine Landscapes and Ecologies shall strategically describe, re-visit and re-frame ways of critically examining socio-cultural and ecological settings that lie in close proximity to rivers and water bodies, especially the 'transect' created by these interactions. As generative elements that play a critical role in the morphological genesis of settlements and urban networks, these riverine landscapes have profound impact on the macro, intermediate and micro scales of settlement patterns (termed as XL/L/M/S). These ‘scalar or grain’ shifts also determine the morphologies of these places and the socio-cultural-economic processes over time. Our continuing research in the Riverine Landscapes and Ecologies sub-area will develop new ways to map and diagram this diversity of scales by specifically combining the notions of the normative (conventional) archive with the ‘unique’ archive of site.

  • The Urban Palimpsests Research sub-area will qualitatively examine the multi-layered narratives of urban settings, creating diagrammatic and filmic renditions that explain the generative logic of these settings. The ‘descriptions’ of site are leveraged to address unprecedented questions that compel the re-writing of histories and geographies. Within these palimpsests, observations will also be directed on the constantly shifting meanings and politics of cultural landscapes, and their perplexing survival (or degeneration) in the context of rapidly-transforming cultures.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • My emphasis on developing the biographies of Borderlands and Borderscapes challenges prevalent notions of the so-called ‘left-behind’, the inconsequential, and the spaces of abandonment that characterise ‘cultural’ passages and choreographies of peoples in space and time. Liminal spaces evolved and produced at borders/frontiers are viewed as provocative junctures of disciplinary and trans-disciplinary inclusions and exclusions, allowing opportunities for multiple methodological experimentations. In effect, our research on Borderlands and Borderscapes will engage not just the formal and spatial nature of these limiting zones, but also interrogate the situations of conflict that potentially result from these contested demarcations.

  • Our studies on Riverine Landscapes and Ecologies shall strategically describe, re-visit and re-frame ways of critically examining socio-cultural and ecological settings that lie in close proximity to rivers and water bodies, especially the 'transect' created by these interactions. As generative elements that play a critical role in the morphological genesis of settlements and urban networks, these riverine landscapes have profound impact on the macro, intermediate and micro scales of settlement patterns (termed as XL/L/M/S). These ‘scalar or grain’ shifts also determine the morphologies of these places and the socio-cultural-economic processes over time. Our continuing research in the Riverine Landscapes and Ecologies sub-area will develop new ways to map and diagram this diversity of scales by specifically combining the notions of the normative (conventional) archive with the ‘unique’ archive of site.

  • The Urban Palimpsests Research sub-area will qualitatively examine the multi-layered narratives of urban settings, creating diagrammatic and filmic renditions that explain the generative logic of these settings. The ‘descriptions’ of site are leveraged to address unprecedented questions that compel the re-writing of histories and geographies. Within these palimpsests, observations will also be directed on the constantly shifting meanings and politics of cultural landscapes, and their perplexing survival (or degeneration) in the context of rapidly-transforming cultures.

  • The Morphologies & Typologies research sub-area will undertake detailed examinations of architectural and urban typologies that range in scale from the territory to city, macro to micro, and through the combinations of diverse methodologies derived from the works of multiple scholars, including Muratori. Caniggia, Castex, Conzen and Petruccioli. The exemplar of architecture and cities of the non-Western, specifically the Islamic world within Asia and the Middle East, will form the core of these studies, and will be viewed within a comparative, cross-cultural context wherein these artifacts are characterized by historical process and design idiosyncrasies.

  • Our examination of Continuity & Change in past, present and future built environments will describe how layers of cultural process morph over time. In looking at the urban cultures of Asia, Eurasia, the Middle East, and the Far East, we will interrogate not just “why the past matters”, but also ‘why should it matter’ within the unprecedented scenario of global and place transformations. We will collate observations on how designers should react within these contexts, and why their actions could transform the nature of the design profession. The Historical Continuity & Change sub-area will also connect to the UQ School of Architecture's offerings of Design Studies at global sites across Asia.