Bhaswar Malick – Paradise on Earth: Tomb of Akbar at Sikandrabad

Here is the latest of our recordings from The British Society for Phenomenology’s 2018 Annual Conference ‘The Theory and Practice of Phenomenology’. Bhaswar Malick is from the University of Cincinnati, and his paper is titled ‘Paradise on Earth: Tomb of Akbar at Sikandrabad’.


Abstract: “Globalization’s dissolution of boundaries parallels a resurgent identity politics, exacerbated by religious invocations. Evidently, the Islamic heritage of India is being repositioned as foreign and incongruent to the nation-state’s cultural legacy. A prime case in point is the recent exclusion of the Taj Mahal from the state government’s tourism booklet– this iconic heritage having been labelled as the architectural flagbearer of Islamic rule in India. But this exclusion is also symptomatic of the primacy of classifications: architecture’s ‘scientific method’ – a work identified by its style and age, its origin and author, and an objectified list of its features. This paper presents an alternative, rooted in the discourses of phenomenology, that can illuminate the nature of situated human interactions more holistically, and hermeneutics, that can reveal the continuing relationships between works of the distant past with the always new present. To account for the booklet’s missed opportunity, this paper will dwell not on the Taj Mahal, but on the tomb of the most powerful Mughal Emperor Akbar, at Sikandrabad. Ignored and attracting far fewer tourists, this monument recedes into relative obscurity, although located within the same city. This paper argues that the tomb remains relevant to modern India because it incites questions of life and death, of living and dying; it claims legitimacy as a work of art – a meaningful and on-going, ever-present human experience. The work works best by transforming a sense of being with the deceased in a place after death, to become a respite in mortal life for soulful contemplation; realised for heightened sensitivity, activated by bodily engagement, and explored within spatial sequences, all encompassed as a holistic architectural experience. In introspection, it provides insight into what Islam, and the human experience in general, are for you and me today, beyond yet through constructions of a defined past.”


The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK during July, 2018. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found at:


The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, conferences and other events, and its podcast. You can support the society by becoming a member, for which you will receive a subscription to our journal:

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