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. It presents Dr. Patel’s scholarly research of the last 20 years, and her collaboration with Dr. Maureen Burns, visual resources consultant and project manager, and a number of students for metadata research and entry. In her teaching and scholarship, Patel has emphasized primary study of material culture, particularly of less-known artistic/architectural traditions. Given the uncertainty of access to many regions where Patel has led fieldwork, she has pursued a wide chronological and geographical range of documentation. She believes that providing well-researched images to scholars and teachers is essential for a thorough understanding of understudied world regions.
Dr. Patel’s documentation throughout Pakistan and India provides her most extensive collection of images, ranging from the ancient through modern periods of artistic and architectural production.
In Pakistan, Patel documented 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 the large necropolis near Thatta in Sindh (including monuments from the 14th through 18th centuries).
In India, Patel has documented sites ranging from Kashmir through the southern Deccan, with an 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), an issue on reuse in South Asian visual culture. Her interests have expanded to 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 by Touraj Daryaee, resulted from an conference analyzing Indo-Iranian connections over two millennia. Patel’s most recent book is Iran to India: The Shansabanis of Afghanistan, c. 1145–1190 CE (Edinburgh University Press 2021).
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