The Forgotten Canopy Conference 3: Imperialism - DAY 1

Fri 4/14/2023 • 10AM - 4:30PM PDT

UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

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The 2022–23 Core Program hosted by the UCLA Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies and William Andrews Clark Memorial Library will convene scholars around the topics of “Ecology,” “Ephemeral Architecture,” and “Imperialism” in the early modern (16th–19th-century) world. The circum-Caribbean is our starting point; specifically, we use this term to refer to the deep connections between the peoples and places of the Caribbean and South America, along with parts of North America. Due to national politics, language barriers, and scholarly divisions that have their roots in the European colonization of the Americas, the long and complex history of exchange among these regions and peoples have been greatly understudied. In truth, this history of entanglement across water and land stretches back millennia, resulting in a rich and diverse built environment that is deeply tied to ecological change. This dynamic did not end with the invasion of 1492, but rather continued to expand and accelerate when people, plants, and empires came from across the Atlantic. Using ephemeral architecture, in particular the complex and exquisite creation of thatch roofs as the leading thread in these tapestries of exchange, this series of conferences highlight the profound ways in which environmental practices, botanical knowledge, technological development, architectural innovation, and creative expression were deeply tied across these distinct regions and peoples, and shaped by imperial actions. This conference series brings an unusually diverse number of disciplines together in order to unpack these complex dynamics, which challenge how we understand the built environment, the early modern Atlantic World, and the intersections between the local and the global.

Critical consideration of the interrelationships between ecologies and ephemeral architectures sets the stage for the theme of the third conference, which will address the imperial transformations of the Caribbean and South America and their impact on and entanglement with the larger early modern Atlantic world. Participating scholars in this conference will use studies of ephemeral architecture, especially thatched roofs, to focus attention on processes of imperialism and landscape transformation relating to Indigenous and Black Americans. In particular, this conference will highlight the complex ways in which Imperial authorities impacted, transformed, and were transformed by, long standing ecological practices and ephemeral architectural knowledge. In doing so, the conference underscores the vital role of ephemeral architecture, such as thatched roofs, in telling histories, even that of global empires, and thus is a reminder of the critical need for the study and preservation of this “Forgotten Canopy.”

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