South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - From Kuccha to Pakka: ‘Concrete’ Change in House Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Mahogany, First Floor

My experiences as an architect in rural India indicate that there is rapid change in house building materials and technology, where communities are quick to discard their traditional kuccha building practices of using mud and bamboo, to adopt new modern building materials like concrete, steel, glass, and paint. There is a tendency to associate these changes with larger abstract forces like neo-liberal globalization, industrial modernization, and rapid urbanization. While these classical Marxists analytical frameworks are useful in understanding this change in building practice, they all start with assuming that there already exist social categories like class and caste, and binaries like rural-urban, and traditional-modern. Through this paper, I proposed to study the change in building practices in rural India using a new materialist lens. How does one understand this change if concrete is looked at as a vibrant and alive actant in a network with other human and non-human elements? (Latour, 1993) What new understandings of change can one think of if one sees the in-site use of concrete as Deleuze and Guttari’s war machine? (Deleuze, Guttari, 1987) What do the physical properties of concrete tell us about its desirability? (Larkin, 2013) How does the same material evoke paradoxical emotions depending on the respondent? (Harvey, 2015) What can thinking about concrete as ‘infrastructure’ add to our understanding about its pervasiveness in the rural Indian context?


Siddharth Menon

University of Colorado at Boulder, United States

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1 - From Kuccha to Pakka: ‘Concrete’ Change in House Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh



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