Widener Hall, Penn Museum
As scholars, we make terminological propositions: two scholarly terms, “royal garden” and “port city” have been employed to contextualize late antique archaeological finds at Sigiriya (Sri Lanka) and Mamallapuram (India). As landscapes, contexts can resist our terms. An intellectual history of terminology should be required to undo our errors. Yet, too often, these terminologies enter into discourse as assumptions. In contemporary South Asia, such “facts” about places can precipitate violent consequences. In this talk, I will trace the 20th century genealogy of two innocuous etic terms to explore the work they have done to our understanding of the past.