In this dissertation, I suggest that the Indian political leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi infused deep and enigmatic meanings into everyday physical objects, particularly buildings. Indeed, the manner in which Gandhi named the buildings in his famous Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad in the early part of the twentieth century, makes it somewhat difficult to write, in isolation, about their physical appearance. Quite apart from considering what the buildings at the Ashram denoted physically, that is, architecture as shelter, one must also take into account what their names connoted. Writing a history of Gandhi's engagement with architecture must necessarily involve taking into account how he sometimes mythified architectural spaces into metaphors for other spaces.
In this dissertation, then, I enquire into how Gandhi mobilized particular aspects of the physical appearances of the buildings that he lived in or considered between 1891 and 1930, as allegories. I also write about how Gandhi systematically infused allegorical meaning into his experiences of places by giving names to those places. Moreover, I consider how, in 1936, Gandhi explicitly emphasized the physical appearance of a hut that had been built in the village of Segaon by Mira Behn, the famous social worker. If Gandhi spoke at length about how Mira Behn had built that hut out of material that contingently became available to her in Segaon, he did so in order to emphasize life as the activity of making do with contingencies. To fully appreciate the purport of Gandhi's description of Mira Behn's hut, then, one has to read it primarily as an allusion towards a contrast between an inner life of equanimity and an outward life of coping with transience and contingencies. Indeed, on the one occasion Gandhi exclusively spoke about the denotative aspects of architecture, he did so in order to make those very aspects connote a deeper, more enigmatic spatial reality which he was always already familiar with. I derive, then, from Gandhi's reading of spaces as allegories for other intensely familiar spaces, or what I call self-same spaces, to write about Gandhian architectural experiments in post-colonial India.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2011. Major: Art History. Advisor: Catherine Asher. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 284 pages.
Selfsame spaces: Gandhi, architecture and allusions in twentieth century India..
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