Call for Proposals: JSAH Roundtable - Race and the Built Environment in the Iberian World, 1400-1800

Apr 3, 2023 by SAH News

Histories of architecture and histories of construction continue to debate the relationship of design and craft. The biographical model, privileging the architect’s intellectual gifts and relations to patrons, has long emphasized the circulation of architectural knowledge through treatises, writings, and travel accounts, while histories of construction and the vernacular focus on the organization of the architectural trades and the study of materials and construction technologies. Histories of construction underscore the fact that the building trades were hardly “democratic” in the early modern Iberian world, where cities and towns often issued legislation to control (not always successfully) artistic and architectural practices as well as urban development (e.g., Slater, Pinto, 2017). The implementation of official languages, urban regulations and design, cartography—or the way the world was represented and understood—consistently effaced both racial and religious minorities across these regions (e.g., Jones 2019; Mignolo, 2003; Mundy, 1996, Davies, 2016). Yet recent literature shows that Black and Indigenous subjects and other racial and religious minorities across the Spanish Atlantic actively litigated to gain rights (e.g. Ireton, 2020; Masters, 2023). While the biographical model has often silenced minority voices, histories of construction and the vernacular allow us to bring to the fore the major intellectual contributions of Black, Indigenous, and other minority architects, builders, masons, and non-architects. This roundtable seeks to re-examine the histories of construction and architecture to explore the role played by a diverse array of builders in shaping the Iberian World.

What does studying builders and the building trade in the Iberian world tell us, and why is it important? For example, architects and builders of Amerindian descent dominated the building trades in Mexico City and Quito (Mundy 2015; Webster 2011), even as several imperial systems enacted legal mechanisms to silence local, Black, and Indigenous knowledge of structures, materials, and design. And what happened in cities and locales where there were no architects but perhaps only carpenters or surveyors at work? Several essays in the recent JSAH Roundtables edited by David Karmon, “Constructing Race in Architecture, 1400–1800,” Parts 1 and 2, touch upon similar issues, further inviting us to rethink how we study architecture. Indigenous knowledge enabled the erection of buildings in regions with significant challenges, such as the suspended quincha vaults of colonial Peru, timber structures in areas with high seismic activity in Portugal, or buildings that sustained the monsoon in Asia (e.g. Carita, 2000 and 2003).

This JSAH Roundtable seeks contributions that rethink the relationship between race and the histories of craft, design, construction, the vernacular, and more traditional architectural histories by focusing on the Iberian world as an example of an imperial system. How was race constructed and reflected in the social organization of the trade and in buildings and cities across the Iberian world? It invites essays that focus on the social organization of the building trade and the construction of race in cities and regions across Europe, Asia, Africa, and America that formed part of the Iberian world between 1400–1800. Theoretically and historically rigorous studies that deal with issues of race, climate, gender, indigeneity, and/or indigenous knowledge, as well as interdisciplinary approaches, are especially encouraged. The editor is committed to working with the chosen contributors to develop their ideas for the roundtable.

Submission Guidelines
JSAH Roundtable consists of a series of short essays, each of approximately 1000 words, that will be collectively published in the place of a single article in an issue of JSAH. This format provides an opportunity for a range of contributors to explore new research directions through a variety of lenses, alongside the traditional full-length articles that are the JSAH mainstay. We welcome submissions by individuals at different career stages (including independent scholars) and different types of institutions (universities, government agencies, museums) that are diverse in their gender, racial, and national composition. To propose an essay for the roundtable, please submit a CV and a one-page abstract for review by roundtable editor Laura Fernández-González to:

Deadline for proposal submissions: 15 May 2023