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Publication Detail
Modern Translators: Civil Engineers and Building Knowledge in Bengal, India, 1900s-1960s
  • Publication Type:
    Conference presentation
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Presentation
  • Authors:
    Sengupta T
  • Date:
    06/2019
  • Name of Conference:
    Asian Modernisms
  • Conference place:
    Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies
Abstract
The role of Indian civil engineers in the making of the more ubiquitous and ordinary built landscapes of late colonial and early post-colonial India as well as in the production of building knowledge has been largely overlooked. When we do find their mention, it is either as a name or two in the context of the grand infrastructure projects of colonialism, or as part of broad and anonymous groups of Public Works or Railways technocrats, or within the overarching canvas of engineering and building design firms. Looking at a couple of handbooks and building manuals from the early and mid-twentieth century, a house design from the late 1950s and an architectural travel guide book from the late 1960s by a few civil engineers in Bengal, I suggest in this paper that as individuals they often acted as bridges between colonial or postcolonial state or corporate technocratic establishments on the one hand and a broader populace on the other, and between ‘expert’ knowledge and more everyday building practices or social projects. They also straddled multiple life-worlds and subjectivities, worked between different paradigms and genres, and acted as ‘modern translators’.
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