James Steele wins Fulbright Award

School News

James Steele wins Fulbright Award

April 06, 2016


Professor James Steele has been awarded a 2016-17 Fulbright grant to Malaysia.


Next semester, Professor Steele will be working with Ezrin Arbi, Professor Emeritus at the University of Malaya, on a multi-publication project on the mosques and vernacular housing of both Malaysia and the Minangkabau people, an ethnic group of West Sumatra, Indonesia.


Steele previously worked with Arbi to establish the USC Architecture study abroad program in Malaysia, and in 2012, Arbi asked Steele to collaborate with him on the project.


Steele explained, “Arbi, now an octogenarian, is a devout Muslim of Minangkabau origin and has been collecting materials on both the distinctive vernacular houses and mosques of his homeland, and those of his adopted country of Malaysia, since he was a student in Jakarta more than 50 years ago.”


Steele plans to frame Arbi’s materials by constructing the context of Minang and Malaysian villages. During the grant period, a group, including Steele, Arbi, and a few University of Malaysia colleagues, will be photographing houses and mosques within their village contexts using a drone. This will be done in both Sumatra and Malaysia.


“This will enable us to coordinate field measurements and ground photography to construct site plan maps of the villages we are studying, which has yet to be attempted,” said Steele.


“As an historian, Professor Steele has dedicated his work to challenging Western history in architecture and therefore, contemporary architectural discourse,” said Dean Qingyun Ma. “His work in Malaysia will add a robust dimension to his mission.”


“I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity,” said Steele. “This grant fulfills a long-held goal of finally being able to complete comparative research on the Minang traditional houses, Minang Mosques, the Malay vernacular house, and Malay mosques with Ezrin Arbi and his staff at the University of Malaysia.”