What's in a Discipline?

Architectural History as Knowledge Project

Call for Proposals for a Session

Society for Architectural Historians Annual Meeting

April 27 - May 1, 2022  Pittsburgh, PA

Joseph Heathcott, The New School  +  Fernando Luiz Lara, University of Texas, Austin

As the knowledge base of architectural history expands through long overdue anti-racist and decolonial efforts, it is crucial that we turn an introspective eye to the discipline itself. In this endeavor, we want to think carefully about whom the discipline serves, whose stories it tells, what knowledge it creates in the world.  

Architectural history as a discipline emerged to serve two core intellectual endeavors: teaching history in schools of architecture, and architecture in departments of art history. With the expansion of Ph.D. programs and the growth of interdisciplinary scholarship over the last fifty years, architectural history increasingly shared methods with a variety of adjacent fields, including literature, vernacular architecture studies, cultural landscape studies, American studies, urban history, and historic preservation. Through and around these varied fields, we have carved out an interrelated set of knowledge projects, including professional associations, journals, scholarly book series, degree programs, and university collaborations. Whether optimal or not, these projects and their boundaries are an intellectual inheritance, the result of converging and diverging histories.

For this session, we seek papers that grapple with the epitemological boundaries of architectural history. We are particularly interested in papers that ground theoretical assertions in rich empirical contexts. Authors should present specific cases from their research that illuminate the often fugitive and grey boundaries of architectural history, that locate the margins and interstices of the field, or that reveal its strengths and limitations as a knowledge project.

Along the way, the session will raise several key questions. What is at stake in the maintenance of the discipline? What interests are served by the arguments mobilized in its support? Where is architectural history at its performative best, and where do things fall apart? And finally, what are we going to make of it for the twenty-first century?

If interested, please send a proposal via the conference web portal.

© 2016 Joseph Heathcott