Professional and Biographical Information
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 2016
M.A. University of California, Los Angeles, 2011
B.A. Oberlin College, 2006
My research is highly interdisciplinary in that it involves the examination of the built environments of slavery from a methodological perspective that combines archival and on-site analysis, laboratory investigations of building materials, and oral history. Currently, I am working with Professor Peter Crowley (Department of Geology) to determine the chemical composition of samples of mortar, plaster, coral, stone, and wooden flooring taken from eighteenth-century buildings in Mauritius. In comparing the results with archival information on the skills that slaves possessed in masonry, woodworking, and coralsmithing, I am developing a natural resource history of Mauritian architecture: a history of the island that accounts for the ways in which architectural knowledge and labor rendered slaves the mavens of the land, the masters of a vast island that only they understood. Since Mauritius does not have a native population, the means through which slaves—from Madagascar, West Africa, India, and East Africa—became masters of the land suggest that they indigenized themselves, or made themselves the de-facto native population through cultivating a form of local knowledge that positioned them as the only group in world history to have ever made use of the resources of this once unclaimed land. My book and my publications subsequently question the meaning of indigeneity, the limits of colonialism, and the role that architecture can play in opening up a discussion on these issues.
The courses that I teach grow out of the questions that inform my research. Mainly, these questions are the following: What are the limits of architectural studies? And how can we push the discipline to account for buildings and landscapes that have been left out of the study of architecture? My course, The Colonial City, is directly informed by the field and archival research that I have conducted on the early modern built environments of the colonial Caribbean and the Indian Ocean in support of my book manuscript, “Masters of the Land: Architecture, Slavery, and Labor in Mauritius.” This book addresses the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century built environments of slavery on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, a locality that was successively colonized by the Dutch, the French, and the English before becoming an independent nation in 1968. The Colonial City involves a thorough investigation of the architecture of this island as well as the other sites in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, West Africa, and the Pacific that were European possessions from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. I also teach The Postcolonial City, a class that investigates the architecture that such places incubated in the aftermath of decolonization. In a slightly different vein, my class, World Monuments, introduces students to the study of architecture, while elucidating the major questions that influence the scholarship on monuments and historic sites. In all of these courses, I enjoy introducing students to understudied places, monuments, buildings, and landscapes and encouraging them to think of more familiar places in new ways.
“How Slaves Indigenized Themselves: The Architectural Cost Logs of French Colonial Mauritius.” Grey Room 71 (Spring 2018): 68-87.
“Creole Architectural Translation: Processes of Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius.” Art in Translation 10, no. 1 (March 2018): 71-90.
Awards and Honors
Invited Talk. “Rethinking Creole Architecture: Translating Forms in the Eighteenth-Century French Empire.” Black Art Futures: African Diasporic Art Histories, Symposium. University of California, Berkeley (2017).
Smith College Mendenhall Dissertation Fellowship (2015-2016)
Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship (2014-2015)
Graduate Division Research Travel Grant, UCLA (2013)
Ruth Nagle Watkins Scholarship, UCLA (2013)
Graduate Summer Research Mentorship, UCLA (2012)
Graduate Summer Research Mentorship, UCLA (2010)
Edward A. Dickson History of Art Fellowship, UCLA (2009-2014)