Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture, University of Rochester
Journeys to the East: Orientalism, Colonialism, and Architectural Modernity, 1898-1933

My dissertation seeks to articulate the visual economy of German orientalism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries as it operated at the intersection of architecture, ethnography, and colonial policy. The German Colonial Empire (1884-1918) consisted of territories in south, southwest, and west Africa, a small, coastal region of Jiaozhou (膠州, Kiautschou) in northeast China, and the islands of New Guinea and Samoa in the South Pacific. Compared to the French or British Empires, it was limited in both size and duration. However, the cultural and material imprint on both colony and metropole is significant and remains understudied in art and architectural history. The historiography of German architectural modernism also remains firmly rooted in the conditions of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), after all overseas territories had been conceded. My project proposes two intertwined lines of inquiry: first, I examine how orientalism and the German colonial enterprise was interwoven within an earlier decade of architectural modernism. How did German architects conceive of and encounter the discursive category of the “Orient” in the mid-19th through early 20th centuries, and how did these ideas take form in architectural thinking? Second, I look directly at the architecture of the colonial capital of Qingdao (青島, Tsingtau) to consider how architecture became a project of diplomacy and self-representation for both the German and Chinese populations, while also functioning as a spatial reminder of the power asymmetry between the two. How were the modernist tenets of standardization, rationalism, and functionality tested in this new colonial landscape? My project is not a historiography of German orientalism or colonialism through modern architecture. Instead, I am concerned with a discursive lineage in which architecture becomes entangled in an imperial worldview.