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Building Histories

The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi

Mrinalini Rajagopalan

Building Histories

Mrinalini Rajagopalan

272 pages | 10 color plates, 51 halftones, 1 table | 7 x 10 | © 2016
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226283470 Published March 2017 Not for sale in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldive Islands, Bangladesh, Burma/Myanmar, and Sri Lanka
E-book $10.00 to $55.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226331898 Published March 2017
Building Histories offers innovative accounts of five medieval monuments in Delhi—the Red Fort, Rasul Numa Dargah, Jama Masjid, Purana Qila, and the Qutb complex—tracing their modern lives from the nineteenth century into the twentieth.

Mrinalini Rajagopalan argues that the modern construction of the history of these monuments entailed the careful selection, manipulation, and regulation of the past by both the colonial and later postcolonial states. Although framed as objective “archival” truths, these histories were meant to erase or marginalize the powerful and persistent affective appropriations of the monuments by groups who often existed outside the center of power. By analyzing these archival and affective histories together, Rajagopalan works to redefine the historic monument—far from a symbol of a specific past, the monument is shown in Building Histories to be a culturally mutable object with multiple stories to tell.
Review Quotes
Hindustan Times
“An eloquent study [that] narrates extraordinary stories. . .making a strong case for pulling archival histories out from the influence of popular emotions. . .the book echoes the need for more nuanced history of architectural objects.”
Singapore Review of Books
Mrinalini Rajagopalan successfully works through her arguments by setting the consideration of source and consequence of the master narrative alongside what are, by all intents, micro-narratives. . .she allows her architectural texts to articulate the very human stories that resonate with every wall, gate, courtyard—in all their glory and dilapidation. . .This book’s achievements suggest that, beyond Delhi, there is an even bigger story to tell about India, and I can think of no better teller to tell it. . . an ambitious and intimate study.
Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review

“[An] eloquent book. . . .Building Histories unravels the histories of some of Delhi’s, and India’s, most important medieval monuments, and presents them in a completely new light. . .while Foucault saw documents as monuments, Rajagopalan suggests the reverse: that in India monuments were seen by colonial administrators and the postcolonial nation-state as stable docu­ments from which they could gather data about the past and place it within a field of rigid meanings — producing, in turn, unquestionable histories. Rajagopalan skillfully decon­structs these unquestionable histories, and their agendas of preservation, through the trope of ‘affect.’”

Saloni Mathur, University of California, Los Angeles
Building Histories is methodologically innovative, interdisciplinary in spirit, conceptually ambitious, and highly synthetic in its approach. The result is a portrait of the monument that does not stand still. Instead, Rajagopalan’s monument spaces shape-shift relentlessly over time as vessels of meaning making and contested, at times violent, histories. This book, which narrates extraordinary stories about Delhi and its monuments—many of them previously unknown—will significantly impact the field and raise the bar for future work in this vein.”
Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University
“This insightful and eloquent book traces the complex narratives of five buildings in Delhi, balancing the uniqueness of each example with an eye for larger patterns. Examining a number of violent confrontations—reaching from the Red Fort at the time of early British conquest to recent Hindu-Muslim conflicts over the Qutb Mosque—Rajagopalan shows how each of these monuments unleashed an affective power, an outpouring of popular emotions about subjects like religion, partition, nationalism, and social change. Building Histories signifies an exciting shift in architectural history and colonial studies.”

Society of Architectural Historians: Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award

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