Coronavirus update

Important information:
All on-campus visits and events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Virtual events will be running as normal unless otherwise stated.  For the latest updates visit our coronavirus information page. Please note that some of our on campus events may be replaced by virtual events - please check with the event organiser listed against each event.

Exhibition Launch: Empires of Emptiness

Rotunda - Aston Webb Building
Monday 7 March 2016 (17:45-19:00)

Please RSVP to

Empires of Emptiness Exhibition: Sahara Desert
Empires of Emptiness Exhibition: Sahara Desert

You are warmly invited to celebrate the launch of the exhibition Empires of Emptiness: Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe to be officially opened by Professor Sir David Eastwood.

Empires of Emptiness housed in the Rotunda gallery and throughout the campus grounds, considers how empires expand into deserts and explores these vast spaces of wind, sand and stars.  Despite their seemingly limited ‘value’ and significant logistical difficulties, the conquest of desert has often mobilised sizeable resources from some of the world’s most notable empires.

Presenting the results of the Birmingham-led research project Outposts of Conquest, this exhibition explores one of the most symbolically charged expressions of imperial control in desert environments: the Russian fortifications in the Central Asian steppe and the vast network of French forts built in an attempt to control the Sahara desert. The comparison shows how these two Christian colonial powers sought to control Muslim and predominantly nomad populations.

The Rotunda exhibition is complemented by an outdoor display across University Square and Chancellors Court.  Sahara & the Steppe contextualises the geographical and human environment where these fortresses were built.  The vanity of these imperial fortresses, guarding these barren landscapes, appears even more clearly, and the stories behind these sentinels of the void, even more mysterious.

Venue: Rotunda Gallery, Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities