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DHAsia Presents | Eurasia's Historical Space of Palimpsest: Desert, Border, Riparian and Steppe, by Manu P. Sobti

The critical biographies of borderlands—the conditions created by borders, boundaries and abandoned terrains—are evocative biographies of ‘no places’ and the people who no longer live there. Yet, these biographies are seldom recorded even though the passage of history through these so-called spatial ‘edges’ frequently leaves behind a rich palimpsest of cultural process.
This research re-imagines medieval landscapes and spatialities along one such unique borderland condition on the legendary Silk Road, located on Central Asia’s legendary Oxus River (later the Amu Darya). Within the context of the decisive, Arab invasions on Central Asia between 675-750 CE, this waterway served as the selectively permeable, border/boundary condition for the Arab armies moving across the cultural region of Khorasan. The Oxus was forded at only two crossing points along its length, both of which have retained this significant role through time. In moving beyond empirical narratives and quantitative potomology, this work reconstructs this spectacular riverine landscape and its two crossing points, based on collections of topographical, Soviet-era de-classified maps, and by employing imaginative technologies that describe the ‘places of choreographies’ mentioned in the archival sources. It collates ‘landscape stories’ from a plethora of historical sources ranging from archival maps, textual and biographical accounts, to archeological and hydraulic reports. It thereby lends unprecedented ‘voice’ to the river’s tumultuous history and to the seemingly ‘inconsequential’ cultural landscape on her banks, while exploring how cultural indigeneity was transmitted with the human migrations across this geographical liminality, creating cities and architecture.
During his residency at Stanford, Professor Sobti will also lead a registration-required, hands-on DHAsia workshop. The registration link can be found here.
DHAsia gratefully acknowledges support for Prof. Sobti's workshop from the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the Center for Interdisciplinary Digital Research, the Abbasi Program, and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES) at Stanford University.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017. 04:15 PM


CESTA, Wallenberg Hall, 4th Floor


Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Stanford University Libraries, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), History Department, CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies




Free and open to the public