The historic architecture of South Asia is as rich and diverse as the region and its people. Temples, tombs, forts, palaces, and dwellings of every kind abound. Webs of meaning bind together their complex, polemical histories. Architectural history in the classroom, however, is removed from culture, mythology, politics, and society, filtered through the "scientific" lens of the nineteenth-century British, and sorted into tidy periods with distinct styles. In the cities, thousandyear-old monuments sit cheek by jowl with steel-and-glass creations and small thatch hutments. Encounters with architectural history for students here is a daily reality not limited to the classroom. Yet architectural history in South Asia is not a discipline or a recognized field of scholarship in and of itself.1

The greatest challenges to teaching architectural history in South Asia involve moving beyond colonial historiography and the legacies of education, and resolving the tensions between the many intricate histories and the new visions of a hi-tech future. Heroic perseverance is necessary in the face of grossly inadequate resources and an overabundance of historical architecture and urbanism. Architectural history is excluded from art history departments, but it is included extensively at the undergraduate level in schools of architecture.2 In my study, I was interested as much by what is not taught as by what is. The silence and the gaps speak not only to inherent biases but also to the institutional frameworks in architectural education.

In this paper, I first examine the institutional context in which the architecture schools developed. British colonial historiography of art and architecture in South Asia is the subject of the next section. I then look at the canon of South Asian architecture and Western European architecture that is taught to students in South Asia. In these sections, I illuminate South Asia's problematic relationship to its colonial legacy: institutional, historiographic, political, and architectural. I then examine a view of progress and modernization that dominates current teaching of architecture and architectural history. The tension between breaking away from history and recovering the past is at the center of the concluding portion of the paper.

  • 1. While many art historians, archaeologists, and even some historians have made significant contributions to our understanding of South Asian architecture, they do not constitute a discipline of study or form a visible, cohesive body
  • 2. This paper investigates the undergraduate level specifically