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Medieval Riverlogues: Crossing and Contestations along the Oxus Borderland

April 29, 2013 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Manu P. Sobti wearing a checkered blue and white shirt
Monday Seminar:

Manu P. Sobti

UW System Fellow (2012-2013)

School of Architecture & Urban Planning, UW-Milwaukee


Manu Sobti shall present an extract from his forthcoming book with Brill Press entitled The Sliver of the Oxus Borderland: Medieval Cultural Encounters between the Arabs and Persians. Positioned within the context of the Arab invasions on Central Asia, he examines the medieval borderlands that witnessed passage, journey and abandonment along the Oxus or Amu Darya -­ the region’s most significant river. Through the course of these invasions, and within the river’s critical role as a liminal zone between two distinct cultural realms -­ the Arab versus the Persian -­ the Amu Darya served as the selectively permeable, border/boundary condition for the large Arab armies moving across Khorasan. They forded the river at two crossing points along its length, both of which have retained this significant role through time. In re-visiting these crossing points, Sobti lends voice to the river’s tumultuous history and to the seemingly ‘inconsequential’ cultural landscape on both sides, re-formulating its engaging role as the only geographic truism in Eurasia, and in marked contrast to the region’s arbitrary Soviet era, state boundaries. His research archive and fieldwork combine interpretations of critical Arab and Persian texts that document these ‘journeys’, alongside introspective fieldwork, and a plethora of re-drawn maps and animations.


Dr. Manu P. Sobti shall be a fellow at the IRH in Spring 2013. He is an Islamic architecture and urban historian, associate professor at the School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee USA. His ongoing research focuses on the urban history of early-medieval Islamic cities along the Silk Road and in the Indian Subcontinent, with particular reference to the complex ‘borderland geographies’ created by riverine landscapes. Within the purview of a comparative, trans-disciplinary research project on the Mississippi, Danube, Ganges and Amu Darya Rivers, he is currently completing a manuscript entitled The Sliver of the Oxus Borderland: Medieval Cultural Encounters between the Arabs and Persians for Brill Publications (Leiden, Netherlands) – a comprehensive work that collates his noteworthy fieldwork in libraries, repositories and archives across Central Asia. His work has received several prestigious awards, including the Trans-disciplinary Research Collaborative Award from the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2011–13), the Global Studies Research Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2010-11), the Hamid Bin Khalifa Research and Travel Fellowship for Islamic Architecture and Culture (2009), the Center for 21st Century Studies Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2009-10), the Aga Khan Graduate Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Cambridge (1993-95), and grants from the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research in Seattle (2009-10), the Graham Foundation of the Arts in Chicago (2008-09), the French Institute for Central Asian Studies in Tashkent (2003), and the Architectural Association in London (2001). He has also received multiple teaching and course development awards, including the BP-AMOCO Teaching Excellence Award at the Georgia Institute of Technology (2001), and the Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2011). Sobti has published widely and presented his research at more than 60 national and international venues. He coordinates the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures (blc) Research Program at UWM, directs the SARUP India Program, and conducts Urban Design Studios in Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and New Orleans in partnership with local schools of architecture.


April 29, 2013
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Categories:


University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States