Historicising the Domestic: New Sites, New Epistemologies, and a New Educational Program

Dr. Gauri Bharat3

3Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University, , India

While India has been a site of extensive critical enquiry, intellectual and institutional apparatuses of architectural history and theory remain under-developed within the country. There is a pressing need to recalibrate colonial tropes that dominate scholarship about the past and reimagine contemporary built environments in relation to the tremendously complex productive and formative forces such as environmental crises or the dynamic political, economic, and social reconfiguring of our villages and cities. In this paper, I discuss some experiments in teaching in India’s only postgraduate program for architectural history and theory which aims to train the next generation of Indian scholars, and outline how the pedagogy employs trans-disciplinary methods to critically engage with contemporary realities. I focus particularly on projects that investigate gender and domesticity, where students – through extensive fieldwork – mapped physical built form, together with structures of sociality, memory, and everyday practice. The projects revealed, for instance, that the erasure of architecture in the urban landscape and public memory is distinctly gendered, that the domestic kitchen was one of most intense but overlooked sites of Indian modernity, and that old practices such as ritual pollution intersect with urban life to produce new forms of spatial segregation and discrimination, among other things. In conclusion, I suggest that such analyses are made possible only through the pedagogy of a studio-based approach to history, underpinned by reflexive ethnography and the engagement with discourses of gender, subalternity, and contemporary visual culture. This, I argue, holds tremendous potential to not just revise but offer a new, politically aware, and intellectually robust future for Indian architectural history.




The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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