Any discussion on globalization and Indian architecture needs to take into account the immense heterogeneity of the country. Not only are its physical and economic conditions diverse, but also people in the various layers of society live radically different lives and, consequently, have sharply divergent world-views. Indeed, most individuals harbor such conflicting valuations, that it provoked the poet-linguist A.K. Ramanujan to speculate: 'Is there an Indian way of thinking?'1 The country, even after over fifty years of Independence, does not display the same degree of national consolidation and 'emotional integration' as Western ones, either now or when they were on the eve of their industrial revolutions.2 This, I argue, should call not merely for qualifications and reservations while undertaking transcultural studies, but for fundamental change in approach...
My paper is about developing such a change in approach. At the outset, one must recognize that this will be difficult at both ends, Indian and Western, because at both ends people have developed dogmatic mindsets. In India, the development of modern architecture was decisively mediated by colonization, so it is hardly surprising that Indian architects are unable to eschew the use of Western theories, models and concepts in their work.3 The West, on the other hand, is riding the crest of globalization, and will find it unnecessary to question the foundations of that position, particularly in dealing with India and other developing countries. In such a circumstance, the potential benefits of transcultural dialogue are obscured, its outcome seriously distorted.4 Most social science disciplines routinely, self-reflexively, acknowledge sub textual power-politics that set the parameters for 'dialogue'; in the discipline of architecture, unfortunately, the hegemony of Western academics and practice pervades and obstructs equitable exchange
The prospects for equitable dialogue are further vitiated on account of globalization. To the West, as I mentioned, this is not an issue and, in fact, the process of globalization is seen as a self-evident truth, a vindication of capitalism and liberal democracy, which will ensure greater common good for all, including the down-trodden in other parts of the world.5 Many people in India uncritically espouse this stance. Others, however, remain skeptical, regarding globalization as a process of re-colonization.6 It is useful therefore, to recall critiques of colonial discourse which have demonstrated how its authority was predicated on an elision of the specific relations of power and knowledge that produced it.7 As globalization spreads, these analyses should not be forgotten because, given its nature and power, there is danger that the present dialogue too, could repeat this process, especially in the field of education and architecture. As Edward Said has pointed out, 'the process of imperialism occurred beyond the level of economic laws and political decisions, and - by predisposition, by the authority of recognizable cultural formations, by continuing consolidation within education, literature and the visual and musical arts - were manifested at another very significant level, that of national culture, which we have tended to sanitize as a realm of unchanging intellectual monuments, free from worldly affiliations.'8 Let us remember that architecture and education are not free from worldly affiliations and that they become the entry points for economic and cultural hegemony. To highlight this point, Said goes on to quote William Blake: 'Empire follows Art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose'.9 As educators engaging in transcultural dialogue under the shadow of globalization, it would be salutary to heed these cautionary insights.
How, then, do we proceed? To begin with, there is a need to distinguish purposefully the voices of the protagonists in the dialogue. In the globalization discourse, the voice of the 'other' is generally marginalized or co-opted. I, therefore, take a position that is self-reflexively Indian and, moreover, foreground this position: if 'we' are to make sense of the problem, it is essential to understand the issues from the view-point of the 'victim', while remaining wary of the politics of victimhood.10 This shift in focus enables us to situate the dialogue at a site outside the bounds of Western interests and priorities, and critically examine why 'we' desire to engage in the dialogue. Such questioning can mitigate the propensity to unconsciously renew colonial discourses.
A second necessary shift is to develop complex ' non-essentialist and non-static - images of each other. Globalization, like colonization, succeeds by simplifying the terms of the encounter and maintaining a short-term perspective. Needless to say, denying or avoiding the multi-faceted, dynamic nature of any encounter fails to appreciate the power-knowledge relationship that connects the protagonists of globalization, and only consolidates inequity. Hence, issues like 'teaching the 'foreign' student' or 'transcultural field studies', which emerge on account of globalization, must be redefined to transcend the straightforward pedagogic concerns of the classroom of the 'dominant' partner in the dialogue. One way to do so is by forming complex images of the 'other' ' whether this is the foreign student or the foreign site being studied. Recent anthropological scholarship has interrogated the discipline's colonial underpinnings and attempted, instead, to produce knowledge of the 'complex local histories' of the 'emergent cosmopolitanism of the world.'11 Architectural pedagogy would do well to adopt a similar interrogatory will, a like-minded appreciation of the complex networks that bind us all, First World and Third.
The third shift is to understand that while globalization brings about change in all societies, the effect of these changes is more profound in 'traditional' societies like India's12 . As the local is connected to the global, some theorists see time and space being 'compressed',13 while others as 'distanciated'.14 These changes were experienced as a steady evolutionary progress in the West, but in countries like India, where the process is being considerably fore-shortened and even short-circuited, the experience can be tragic. In the architectural studio, for example, the connectivity facilitated by globalization results in the Indian student developing an ersatz familiarity with, and a consuming passion for, architectural developments taking place in the West. This, of course, enables the Indian student to fit comfortably into the classroom in Western universities, but does little for the development of local architecture. As Manuel Castells points out, the issue is more than connectivity, because each place that gets connected has 'well-defined social, cultural, physical and functional characteristics'.15 The erosion or loss of these characteristics leads to the development of a shallow architectural culture and a dependency on external/Western sources for architectural ideas. Not surprisingly, this also translates into economic dependency because it promotes the use of unsustainable materials and technology in the field. Indian urbanscapes are now dotted with sleek glass curtain wall towers that have no connection to the local culture, climate or availability of infrastructural resources to support their functioning. Thus, in addition to 'flattening' the cultural field, globalization also impoverishes local economies.
While on the subject of local cultures, the growing evidence of the revival of indigenous building traditions in India is another issue that needs to be addressed. The spread of Western ideology through colonization did not eradicate pre-existing systems of building. These have continued on their own evolutionary course between the interstices of modern development practices. In India today, one is confronted with two diametrically opposed options of architectural construction - the modern/western and the modern/indigenous - each compelling in its ability to provide viable architecture to different sections of society. Privileging the former ignores the needs of the vast majority of the country. Redressing this colonially inherited bias in architectural development is the fourth requirement of a productive dialogue. But here one must add a caveat: shifting the focus onto traditional architectural practices brings with it the danger of revivalism. Studies undertaken by US universities in India often accomplish little else.16 Attempts to revive indigenous building practices must also guard against the pitfalls of Orientalism.17
Changing the terms of our dialogue in the ways I have suggested opens up a plethora of options. One could advocate revolutionary change or espouse an almost Luddite-like opposition to it, urge an emphasis on 'state-of-the-art' systems and technologies so as to 'catch-up' with the West18 , or explore traditional knowledge and technologies, to mention just a few. In this sense heterogeneity and multiplicity have quite different connotations in the West and in India: in the West they refer to differences within a dominant cultural meta narrative, while in India they refer to different paradigms - systemically different logics each - of architectural production. At first glance, it might appear that the issues in architecture and architectural education in India are Western ones because, after all, the visible and articulate elite in India is Westernizing quite successfully. However, a closer study would indicate that, because the process of Westernization is not complete, there exist unique opportunities to respond to the needs of the majority, and seek more appropriate directions for architectural development. Our task as educators is to reorient transcultural dialogue to this situation.
A Mutually Empowering Agenda for Architectural Education
The new agenda for architectural education, then, will have to address three issues: first, those relating to sustainability in both the ecological and human systems under conditions of poverty and scarcity of resources; second, the objective of the conservation of built and natural heritages both of which are being degraded at an alarming rate; and third, how to deal with emerging technologies and their implications for architectural design and education. The last will determine whether these technologies force the adoption of unsustainable and inappropriate ways of building or respond to the vast range of local conditions. These issues, in whole or in part, are being addressed by a few Schools in the finest traditions of reflexive thinking in the area of architectural education. There is a pressing need to build on these initiatives.
Both the international women's and environmental movements can guide us in re-negotiating transcultural dialogue. In her monograph, Monocultures of the Mind19 , Vandana Shiva persuasively demonstrates how unipolar sensibilities ' 'monocultures' as it were ' inevitable produce unsustainable technologies. Although her focus is agri-business, her argument is noteworthy: our complex world ' be it natural or social ' demands a multiplicity of paradigms. And this is not an unrealistic goal: the women's and environmental movements have each formed alliances at the local, national and international levels without sacrificing local autonomy. Both also link theory and practice in such a way that each is grounded in the context of the other. Architectural pedagogy and practice needs a similar vision.
Architecture in the West, at least since the advent of modernism, has focused on the avante garde. The pursuit of the avant-garde dovetails with the imperatives of consumerism, first within the boundaries of a local market, and later spreads to dictate conditions in the global market. Teaching architecture in a world of growing 'permissiveness and speed'20 forces teachers to retreat in a laissez-faire acceptance of conditions as they are. Few question its implications either for themselves or for others, or the pernicious proclivity to cast the West in the universal mode; few in the West need to. This must be resisted both from within and without. The shift in focus that I advocate enables us to learn from the experience of countries like India, currently at the periphery of the Western field of vision. The periphery needs to be brought into focus, not merely as an object of cultural or commercial curiosity, but as an active agent in determining the nature of globalization discourse.
What can the West learn from the India? For one, how to deal with deprivation and scarcity. The resources of this planet are finite and if India were to emulate the West as is being suggested by both multinational business interests and Western educational institutions, the consequences would be disastrous ' for everyone. Surely it is better, by far, that the best practices of India become more widely adopted, not only in other parts of the Third World as international aid agencies recommend, but in the First World as well. For another, some of the finest cultural resources exist in India and the Third World as living traditions. The First World has lost much of its own through industrialization and wars and a similar prospect confronts the Third World. This will be a profound loss for the cultural diversity of our planet. Similarly, some of the finest examples of conservation-oriented development practices exist in the Third World: one has only to see the documentation and research produced by the Aga Khan Foundation to appreciate the strength in this proposition. These strategies need to be foregrounded and made models for wider application.
In the discipline of architecture, globalization is a phenomenon that has been more often assumed than explained by professionals and academics alike. Its potential has been exploited by some, often at the cost of others. Transcultural dialogue in architectural education needs to redress this situation; it offers an opportunity to direct the potential of this dialogue to benefit not only the protagonists involved, but also the discipline itself. To translate these ideas into action, we need to formulate a new interdisciplinary program, situated at sites around the world, which will research and advance a disciplinary manifesto with an international vision. I commend this proposal for your consideration
- 1. A K Ramanujan, 'Is There an Indian Way of Thinking? An Informal Essay,' in Contributions to Indian Sociology (New Series) Vol. 23, No.1, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1989.
- 2. Gunnar Myrdal, Beyond the Welfare State, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960, pp. 72-77 et passim.
- 3. cf. Ritu Bhatt and Sonit Bafna, 'Vistara : A Critical Appraisal,' in Vikramaditya Prakash, (ed.), Proceedings of the Theatres of Decolonization Conference, Chandigarh, January 6-10, 1995, Seattle, Washington: Office of the Dean, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Washington, 1997, pp. 51-52.
- 4. cf. David Prochaska, 'Ethnography of a Post-Colonial Site: Sarnath', in Proceedings of Theatres of Decolonization Conference, op. cit., pp. 327-350. Prochaska analyzes issues of identity, appropriation and contestations involved in post-colonial representations of Sarnath, by focusing on design plans prepared in the late-1980s by the University of Illinois Department of Landscape Architecture. The University's study was organized by the U.S. National Parks Service using funds generated from American foreign aid to India under the Public Law 480 program. Access to this massive resource enabled the NPS to arrogate to itself the responsibility for the development of several other sites with a potential for cultural tourism.
- 5. Of course, one recognizes that it is not correct to attribute a homogenized view to either the First or Third World. As James Clifford pointed out, 'Difference is encountered in the adjoining neighborhood, the familiar turns up at the ends of the earth'. (James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture, Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art, Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 1988, p. 14) While there are many opponents to globalization within the First World, the economic regime imposed by the First World dominated World Bank and the World Trade Organization presents an aggressive, intransigent face of globalization to the Third World.
- 6. cf. Noam Chomsky, Profit Over the People: Neo-Liberalism and Global Order, Delhi: Madhyam Books, 1996.
- 7. Thomas R. Metcalf, 'Past and Present : Toward an Aesthetic of Colonialism', in G.H.R. Tillotson, (Ed.), Paradigms of Indian Architecture, Space and Time in Representation and Design, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 12-25.
- 8. Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, p.12.
- 9. Ibid. p.13.
- 10. See for example, Ian Baruma, 'Joys and Perils of Victimhood', The New York Review of Books, Vol XLVI, No.6, April 8, 1999, pp. 4-9. Baruma, in fact, makes the point that 'victimhood' is often used as a pretext, a badge of identity. Such perceptions contribute to underplaying the real problems of globalization.
- 11. cf. Arjun Appadurai, 'Global Ethnoscapes: Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology' in Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, Richard G. Fox (ed.), Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1991, pp. 191-210.
- 12. See for example, Saskia Sassen, Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization, New York: Columbia University Press, 1996 and Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Sassen argues that a profound transformation is taking place, a partial denationalizing of national territory, thus radically altering the landscape of governance in the era of globalization.
- 13. David Harvey, The Condition of Post-Modernity, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
- 14. Anthony Giddens, The Consequence of Modernity, Cambridge, Ma: Polity Press, 1990.
- 15. Manuel Castells, The Rise of Network Society, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1996, p. 413.
- 16. cf. David Prochaska, 'Ethnography of a Post-Colonial Site: Sarnath', op.cit.
- 17. Edward Said has written trenchantly on the ontological significance of oriental studies initiated in colonial times to the development of Orientalism and the subsequent power-knowledge relationship between the West and the East. This relationship established the positional superiority of Western scholarship and was based more or less exclusively on a sovereign Western consciousness defining the Oriental world. See Edward Said, Orientalism, New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
- 18. For example, the current standards in construction technology in India are so poor that it is estimated that only two or three Indian firms are able to compete for construction projects on international terms.
- 19. Vandana Shiva, Monocultures of the Mind, London: Zed Books Ltd., 1993
- 20. Pierre von Meiss, 'Design in a World of Permissiveness and Speed' in Martin Pearce and Maggie Toy, (Eds.), Educating Architects, London: Academy Editions, 1995, pp. 110-115.