Place-Making and World-Seeking on the Swahili Coast

Five teaching modules for the Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative, 2019

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This project was generously funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation's Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative, based at MIT.  The modules present the architecture, infrastructure, and material culture of the Swahili Coast of East Africa as it developed from around 1200 CE through the twentieth century. We examine the development of Swahili architecture and urbanism as a constant tension between rootedness and cosmopolitanism, place-making and world-seeking. The overarching theme is that of dynamism, where Swahili landscapes are approached as always recombinant, unfinished, absorptive, innovative, and changing, rather than as static or pure or archetypal. Lectures consider sequential architectural and townscape developments in a variety of locations, including Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, and the ruins at Gedi, Kilwa, and other sites.

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