Last spring, U.S. forces found Osama bin Laden in a secret lair in Pakistan; a CIA operative was detained in Lahore.
Michael Meister's funded research trip to Pakistan was postponed.
That’s how it goes for Meister, the W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asia Studies in the Department of the History of Art, whose current fieldwork happens to be in a war zone. On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Meister will present a Penn Lightbulb Café talk about the challenges of his research. His talk, called “Conducting Research in Pakistan: Restoring Religious Monuments in Swat,” will shed light on his work in the troubled region.
Free and open to the public, Meister’s talk will begin at 6 p.m. at the Pepper Mill Café on the second floor of the Penn Museum. Menu items, beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks will be available for purchase. RSVPs are encouraged and will be taken by Gina Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-898-8721.
Meister’s research focuses on Buddhist and Hindu temple architecture, early Islam and the art of the Indian sub-continent. He has carried out excavations at Salt Range Hindu-Shahi temple sites in Pakistan in collaboration with the Pakistan Heritage Society. He has also surveyed mountain temples in the Himalayas and done ethnographic cross-disciplinary research on pilgrimage temples in Rajasthan.
Early in his career, Meister’s research took place in India. Working in Pakistan, he says, has enabled him to more fully understand ancient India, although navigating the political terrain can be difficult.
In 1947, when Pakistan and India gained independence, many people became refugees from their ancestral homes. Meister says much of this history is being forgotten.
“The modern political landscape truncates history,” he says. “I thought my friends in India would be excited about the temples surviving in Pakistan, but they perhaps were reluctant to be reminded about what had been separated."
Meister's work showcases both countries' rich cultural diversities. He and a network of European, American and South Asian scholars are restoring not only Buddhist and Hindu religious monuments, but historical Islamic and Christian sites as well.
At Penn, Meister has taught courses on Asian art, cities and temples of ancient India, Indian Temple architecture and South Asia sculpture. His most recent book is “Temples of the Indus Studies in the Hindu Architecture of Ancient Pakistan.”
Originally published on November 10, 2011