Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture
Houses of Labor: Dwelling, Middling Experts and Architectural Cultures of Malabar (1960 - 2018)

Marx's distinction between the architect and the "worker bee" has come to define the split between immaterial, holistic, creative work and physical, atomistic and non-creative labor (Marx 1887). As an architectural theorist summarized, "Architects do not make buildings, they make drawings of buildings" (Evans 1997). My preliminary research leads me to hypothesize a distinction between the labor of architects and 'architectural labor'. The latter is performed by supposed 'non-experts' but creative, producing both architectural representations and artefacts that belong to "popular public culture" (Chatterjee, Guha-Takurta and Kar 2014) and embodies "locally based cosmologies" (Pinney 2004) while mediating circulations of global "expert culture" (Mitchell 2002) and importantly, producing most of the built environment in South Asia. My dissertation seeks to write labor back into modern architectural history in the context of a specific local architectural culture and in the production of the everyday space of dwellings. My object of study is the single-family remittance houses of Gulf emigrant labor in the urban-rural continuums of Kozhikode located on the Malabar Coast of Kerala. Keralites (3% of population) send the most remittances to India, mostly from the United Arab Emirates. While remittance houses allows me a situated exploration of contemporary manifestations of Malabar's underexplored hybrid modern architectural cultures of dwelling it also helps me bring these everyday domestic spaces into conversation with with the 'global' landscape of Dubai, built and maintained by Kerala's emigrant architectural labor. My project thus integrates accounts, representations and imaginations of labor beyond that of the architect-expert at multiple scales within contemporary architecture culture "provincializing" the 'global' and demonstrating the cosmopolitan imaginaries of the local (Chakrabarty 2000).