A handful of UC faculty received the 2019-2020 University of California President’s Faculty Research Fellowship. Among them is Aditi Chandra, an assistant professor of global arts, media and writing studies at UC Merced.
Chandra’s work is titled “Unruly Monuments: Disrupting the State at Delhi’s Islamic Architecture.” A continuation of her thesis at the University of Minnesota, Chandra’s work examines how the historical Islamic structures built in Delhi, India between the 12th and 17th Centuries were transformed into modern tourist monuments in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“The creation of monuments is not simply a legal process through which a sign is placed outside a monument,” Chandra said. “This is a physical process that displaces people. It’s more spatial and experiential. I want to look at the lived experiences of people at historical architecture in Delhi as they become modern monuments.”
Chandra claims that colonial authorities and nations use historical monuments to shape their identity, but that the process of monument-making also excludes marginalized groups.
As an example, Chandra points to a period of British colonialism in India. In an effort to create the picturesque gardens reminiscent of England, starting in 1828 the British landscaped an area around a mosque in Delhi. The result? Farming communities in the area were displaced, disrupting the local economy and livelihood of many—several of whom resisted this exclusion.
“The whole process of making that area beautiful for elite tourists displaced people making it an exclusionary space based on class and race,” Chandra said.
Chandra is one of eight recipients from seven different campuses all of whom focus on a range of humanities disciplines. As a winner, Chandra will receive paid leave from her regular teaching duties for the spring 2020 semester in order to pursue her own research project.