Dr. Sara Keller


Junior Fellow (Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies)


Weltbeziehungen / C19.03.33

+49 361 737-2809

Office hours

nach Vereinbarung

Visiting address

Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Nordhäuser Str. 63
99089 Erfurt

Mailing address

Universität Erfurt
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Postfach 90 02 21
99105 Erfurt

Dr. Sara Keller


Interdisciplinary project with students at Erfurt University: Garden and Religion?!

Panel at 2024 EAUH conference in Ostrava: “Making inner urban boundaries” (Panel M6), together with Mateusz Fafinski

Out now: Architektonische Resonanz. Das Mausoleum des indischen Sufi-Meisters Shah Vajihudin Alvi (Schnell & Steiner 2023)

Personal Information

Curriculum Vitae

Sara Keller (MA Heritage Conservation, PhD. Theory and Praxis in Archaeology at the Sorbonne University, Paris in 2009 and PhD. Islamic Art History and archaeology at the University of Bamberg in 2009) works since 2010 as affiliated researcher at the ‘Orient and Mediterranean’ Research Lab (UMR 8167, France) and since 2019 as a Junior Fellow at the Max Weber Centre, Erfurt. She specialises in the history and theory of architecture with a special focus on South Asia.

Her research in spatial history investigates the articulation of materiality and meaning in the production of space and place. Therefore, she works multidisciplinary and associates building-archaeological surveys of historical monuments and urban structures with historical and theorical approaches. Her leading works are the theory of architectural resonance (see Architektonische Resonanz, published 2023) and her current project on historical water places in urban South Asia.


Research Focus

  • Theory and History of Architecture (architectural resonance).
  • History of western Indian architecture (medieval and early modern periods).
  • Indian cities: Topography, built landscape, development und social geography.
  • Knowledge transfer, interculturality, east-west mobilities and connections especially between mediterranean and Indian ocean.

Research Project

Indian architectural tradition understands the space as a living organism, a body: the body of the mythical Puruṣa tamed by the Gods on earth. Respecting this cosmology, a city is perceived as a large body with its identity (landscape and population), its organs (outstanding buildings and spaces), its circulation and subtle flows (streets, traffic, spheres of influence). In this context, water, the genesis element per se, naturally places a determining role.

Recent surveys on Indian water architecture demonstrated the importance of urban waterscapes throughout ages and urbanisation phases. In South Asia, water was not just the object of infrastructural projects, but was the central element of a monumental, sophisticated and representative architecture. The project looks beyond a simple architectural description of historical stepwells, ghāṭs, kuṇḍas and other reservoirs. It investigates the significance of designed water places in the context of an ambivalent attitude of the urban toward water: how to make water accessible without exposing urban life to floods and other water dangers? What were the sociological and religious dimension of these water places? How was religious continuity managed in challenging urban, topographical and political environments? This study brings to light the close connection of water, urbanity, power and religion.


Selected Publications

  • Keller, Sara. 2024. ‘Alternative Urbanities. Mapping Gardens and Reservoirs in Pre-modern Indian Cities (the Case of Vadnagar).’ Religion and Urbanity Online, edited by Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Open Access. doi.org/10.1515/urbrel.28602859
  • Keller, Sara (ed, forthcoming 2024). Accessing Water in the South Asian City. Delhi: Primus.
  • Keller, Sara. (forthcoming 2024). ‘The lake as Urbanity marker. A model of water topography in the Western Indian city (10th -16th century).’ International Quaterly for Asian Studies.
  • Keller, Sara. 2023. ‘Der hängende Garten in Bamberg. Ein Experiment mit Studierenden der Orientalistik an der Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg.’ FIS Universität Bamberg. 12 p. Open Access.  https://doi.org/10.20378/irb-90278
  • Keller, Sara. 2023. ‘Hydro-diversity : A Waterscape Model of the Medieval Western Indian City.’ International Quaterly for Asian Studies (IQAS), Vol. 54 / 2023 iv, 431–450. Also in OA. DOI 10.11588/iqas.2023.4.16245
  • Keller, Sara. 2023. ‘Vāstu śāstra as Ideological Guides to South Asian Urbanity: (5th–15th Century and Beyond).” Religion and Urbanity Onlinehttps://doi.org/10.1515/urbrel.22600402
  • Keller, Sara. 2022. ‘Releasing temple gold. Spatial fix in medieval Saurashtra through water epigraphy.’ Down by the water: Interdisciplinary Studies in Human-Environment Interactions in watery Spaces, edited by Veronica Walker Vadillo, Emilia Mataix Ferrándiz and Elisabeth Holmqvist. BAR – British Archaeological Reports. 15-35.
  • Keller, Sara. 2022. ‘Der frühe südasiatische Garten: Sinnlichkeit und Spiritualität um die Stadt.‘ in Gärten: Von der Naturbeherrschung zur gesellschaftlichen Utopie, edited by Bettina Hollstein, Sandra Tänzer, Alexander Thumfart. Wallstein. pp. 57-91.
  • Keller, Sara. 2022. ‘Tangible and Imagined Spatialities around Water: The Munsar Lake as a Case Study for South Asian Hydro-Space (Viramgam, India, 11th–12th centuries). Religion and Urbanity Onlinehttps://doi.org/10.1515/urbrel.17262808
  • Keller, Sara. 2022. ‘Religion and urban waterscape in South Asia: Kankaria or the ghāt revisited.’ Moderne Stadtgeschichte (MSG), Bd. 1. 69-83.
  • Keller, Sara. 2021. ‘Cloistering Water: Technological Rupture, Religious Continuity (Western India, 16th century).’ South Asian Studies Journal. doi.org/10.1080/02666030.2021.1967610. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02666030.2021.1967610
  • Keller, Sara. 2021. ‘India: Life around Water.’ Exhibition brochure, Photo exhibition at the Augustinerkloster, Erfurt, Germany from the 07.07. to 08.08.2021. https://www.uni-erfurt.de/en/university/current/news/news-detail/ausstellungseroeffnung-indien-leben-am-wasser.
  • Keller, Sara. 2019. Knowledge and the Indian Ocean - Intangible Networks of Western India and Beyond, (ed.) Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, XLI, 266 S.
  • Keller, Sara. 2019: ‘Scholars in Gujarat’s Bazaars –Revisiting L’académie ambulante (‘The Roving Academy’)’, gemeinsames Papier mit Fernando Rosa. In Knowledge and the Indian Ocean - Intangible Networks of Western India and Beyond, (ed.) Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 87-112.
  • Keller, Sara. 2017: ‘Les mètres et le vers des monuments muzaffarides. Réflexion sur le rôle et les outils de l’architecte dans le Gujarat du sultanat (Inde, XVe - XVIe siècle)’. Arts Asiatiques, Band 72, pp. 3-16.
  • Keller, Sara. 2016: ‘The first steps of the French adventure in India’, RFIEA n.14, Juni 2016, pp. 8-9.