An Identity in Concrete:How a material shaped national and individual, built and imagined realities in India

Author: ORCID icon
DSouza, Vanessa, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, AR-Architectural History, University of Virginia

A snapshot of India’s built landscape today signifies a singularly growing shift in the consumption of one distinct material - concrete. Normative discussions on concrete have often revolved around its structural and aesthetic properties. However, this material has been re-adapted under very different social parameters within the ‘Global South’, specifically India. This thesis traces the history of institutional practices employing concrete that managed to weave this material into the Indian social, cultural, and economic fabric, establishing its physical and emotional omnipresence. It analyses colonial frameworks and the systemic hierarchies they set up and the monopolization and lobbying of concrete and concrete infrastructural projects by subsequent private and public agents. This thesis further details the strategies employed by national institutions such as the Public Works Department and private cement companies such as the Concrete Association of India, the Associated Cement Companies Ltd., and the Cement Manufacturing Company to market concrete as a commodity exemplifying the “modern”. Explored through the materiality and domestic consumption of concrete, it illustrates how concrete was utilized as currency by both institutional and individual agents to accrue financial capital, social status, and emotional security. It illustrates how concrete has morphed to take on distinct “situated” meanings within the Indian imagination. Beyond an architectural history of the built environment it has shaped, this thesis examines in part, the phenomenological experiences elicited by concrete and by extension the concrete home, within systems of production and consumption.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Concrete, Cement, India, Domesticity, Vital materialism, Journals, Architectural history, Architecture, Assemblage, Material culture, Post-colonial, Home
Issued Date: