Postcolonial Possibilities of Architectural History: Questions and Concerns in Reading the Urbanisms of the Global South

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Dasgupta, Soumya
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As the twenty-first century unfolds before us, the megacities of Global South experience unprecedented urbanization characterized by informalizations of urban spaces. While several new theoretical perspectives from fields such as geography, sociology, and urban planning are contributing heavily in understanding and explaining these mega-urbanisms of the Global South and their complicated and contested narratives, Architectural History, as a discipline, still struggles to articulate these transformations meaningfully. In the context of this epistemological dichotomy, this paper delves into an academic multilogue between architectural history as a methodological apparatus to read and understand space, recent theoretical insights from related built-environment disciplines that reflect on the Global South, and critical theories that help us understand socio-spatial processes, productions, and practices. In doing so, this paper first critiques the role of architectural history in its inability to include much of the spatial narratives of the Global South and questions the canonical understandings of architecture that most of its present academic pedagogy perpetuates. Second, it discusses the potentials of how and what architectural history and theory can learn from contemporary discourses in neighboring subjects. Third, it calls for a postcolonial intervention into architectural history and theory to enunciate the spatial narratives of the understudied Global South. Further, by configuring a critical conversation between theoretical perspectives such as Bhabha’s ‘hybridity’, Lefebvre’s triad of spatial productions, Certeau’s ‘strategies and tactics,’ Bayat’s ‘quiet encroachment,’ and Harvey’s ‘insurgent architect’ this paper proposes an analytical framework that might help us read the complex, entangled, and contested urbanisms of the Global South and the history of their architectural productions.
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