Alka Patel Archive: South Asian Art and Architecture
The Alka Patel Archive comprises approximately 15,000 images of objects, buildings, and archaeological sites throughout South Asia (India and Pakistan), Iran, Afghanistan, and Cuba. These images are the outcome of Dr. Patel’s documentation and scholarly research during the last twenty years, and her collaboration with Dr. Maureen Burns, visual resources consultant and project manager, and a number of undergraduates and graduates for metadata research and entry. In her teaching and scholarship, Patel has consistently emphasized primary study of material culture, particularly of less-known artistic/architectural traditions. Given the uncertainty of access to many global regions where Patel has conducted fieldwork, she has pursued a wide chronological and geographical range of documentation. Dr. Patel believes that making well-researched images available to scholars and teachers is essential for a more thorough representation and understanding of understudied world regions and their histories.
Dr. Patel’s documentation throughout South Asia constitutes her most extensive collection of images, ranging from the ancient through modern periods of artistic and architectural production in Pakistan and India.
In Pakistan, Patel undertook thorough documentation of Gandharan Buddhist sites such as Takht-i Bahi (1st-5th centuries), as well as the rarely studied and endangered Hindu temples in the Salt Range and the Hissar Range (7th-10th centuries), straddling the modern provinces of West Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. This documentation complements that of better-known sites such as the Congregational Mosque of Lahore of the Mughal period (c.1525-1858), and indeed the large necropolis near Thatta in Sindh, which counts monuments from the 14th through 18th centuries.
In India, Patel has documented sites ranging from Kashmir through the southern Deccan, with a particular emphasis on the temple and Islamic architecture of the 12th through 15th centuries, permitting analysis of the adaptation of temple building toward Islamic ritual architecture.
Alka Patel is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and in the PhD Program for Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She received her BA from Mount Holyoke College and her PhD from Harvard University. Patel’s research has focused on South Asia and its connections with Iran and Central Asia, including overland and Indian Ocean maritime networks. She has also maintained an ongoing interest in the Islamic history of the Maghrib (Iberia and North Africa) and Islamicate diasporas in the New World, which afforded her the opportunity to document colonial architecture in Cuba.
Dr. Patel’s publications include Building Communities in Gujarat: Architecture and Society during the Twelfth-Fourteenth Centuries (Brill 2004), Communities and Commodities: Western India and the Indian Ocean, for which she was guest editor of a special issue of Ars Orientalis XXXIV (2004). Patel also guest-edited Archives of Asian Art LIX (2007), a special issue on reuse in South Asian visual culture. Patel’s interests have expanded to include mercantile networks and architectural patronage in modern South Asia, as evidenced in Indo-Muslim Cultures in Transition (co-ed. K. Leonard, Brill 2012). Her recent volume India and Iran in the Longue Durée (Jordan Center for Persian Studies, 2017), co-edited with ancient Iranist Touraj Daryaee, resulted from an international conference convening a wide range of specialists analyzing Indo-Iranian connections over two millennia. Patel’s current book project on the Ghurids of Afghanistan and northern India is titled India, Iran and Empire: the Shansabānīs of Ghūr, ca. 1150-1215, underway with the support of the Getty Consortium Scholar Fellowship (2017-18).
Want to add your own collection to the Artstor Digital Library? Learn how to contribute