[excerpt]

SCAFFOLDING OR SKELETON?

The language of building furnished the promoters and apologists of Empire with some of their most cherished metaphors. As one elder statesman of Indian colonial service proposed in a statement to Parliament in 1873, the administrative infrastructure of British India “… was but a provisional temporary arrangement, … a sort of scaffolding which [has] been erected until the edifice of our Indian Empire is completed. And as it is completed,” he argued, pursuing the logic of his metaphor, “… that scaffolding should be taken down”

In the Victorian heyday of the British Raj, the PublicWorks Department of the Government of India (PWD) was a prime, even literal, exemplar of this metaphorical “scaffolding” of empire. As the technical branch of the colonial administration, it had rapidly produced a ubiquitous array of utilitarian buildings and infrastructure through which the British were significantly restructuring the Indian subcontinent, both spatially and technologically. By the early twentieth century, however, these works and buildings had acquired a far more structural connotation.