Current Institutional Affiliation
Communications Director

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History, University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign
Space, Time and Architecture: The Spatialization of Knowledge and Power at the Astronomical Observatories of Sawai Jai Singh II, 1721-1743

My dissertation will analyze the spatialization of knowledge systems in eighteenth-century scientific landscapes of northern India as embodied by five observatories built under the patronage of the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1688-1743). Drawing together disparate strands of astronomical knowledge through the acquisition of both human advisors and written texts, Jai Singh implemented a major building program outside the walls of Shahjahanabad (present-day New Delhi), the center of Mughal power during the reign of Muhammad Shah. The inauguration of the Delhi observatory (c. 1721) was soon followed by an expanded building program, culminating in the construction of four additional observatories in Mathura, Varanasi, Ujjain and Jaipur. Although usually studied by historians as discrete monuments, I argue the observatories should be interpreted as part of a larger system of knowledge, spatial and temporal control. That is, while each observatory can be read within the context of local building and cultural practices, the complexes were not designed to operate as solitary observational nodes, but rather as dynamic locations of information production and exchange. Expanding upon previous models of knowledge mapping, I will argue for a new reading of the sites that emphasizes their role in the creation and privileging of certain forms of knowledge as part of a transcontinental network of science. In the work of Jai Singh and his advisors, knowledge, space and time were mapped multidimensionally through the construction and subsequent control of a network of local work spaces dedicated to the production of universal knowledge.