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Type: Conference paper
Title: ‘Institutional Agency’ and architecture in the field of colonial empire building
Author: Scriver, P.
Citation: Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: Architecture, Institutions and Change, 2015 / Hogben, P., O'Callaghan, J. (ed./s), vol.32, pp.571-581
Publisher: Society of Architectural Historians ANZ
Issue Date: 2015
ISBN: 9780646942988
Conference Name: 32nd Architecture, Institutions and Change: Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (7 Jul 2015 - 10 Jul 2015 : Sydney, NSW)
Editor: Hogben, P.
O'Callaghan, J.
Statement of
Peter Scriver
Abstract: For many contemporary critics who railed against its technocratic yoke and the putative banality of the built environments it produced, the Public Works Department of British India seemed to embody the infernal apparatus of colonial power itself. But, is it reasonable to regard an institution as an intentional agent in its own right? Challenging such assumptions, this paper attempts to sketch the outline of a more diffuse and necessarily historical account of specific institutionalised modes of production and reasoning in practice. It seeks to explain the architectural work attributed to a bureaucratic government institution as the production or ‘position-takings’ of position holders in at least two overlapping fields: on one hand, what the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called a bureaucratic field within the meta-field of the colonial state: on the other hand, a field of production, broadly concerned with the technical development and construction of the built fabric of British India, in which compelling and even contradictory concerns with ‘Architecture’ constituted a ‘sub-field of cultural production’. Using Bourdieu’s analytical tools to articulate relevant objects of architectural inquiry in the present case, what I hope to establish is the existence of a sub-field of cultural production in which individual members of the PWD were engaged, and with which the bureaucratic field constituted by the PWD had surprising affinities. Though dominated briefly by actual members of the architectural profession, this putative sub-field of cultural production also put some of the basic assumptions – the notion of professional autonomy in particular – and the boundaries of that profession at stake.
Rights: Copyright of the content of individual contributions remains the property of the named author or authors
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