Over the 19th century the colonizing expansion and empire building of Western nations
reached across the entire globe. A feature of this process concerned the gradual erosion of
regional modes of cultural expression and identity through the introduction of Western forms of
culture, social organization and systems of government. A significant aspect of these
colonizing strategies included the utilization of architecture as an ideological mechanism of
power and instrument of cultural hegemony. Furthermore, the expansion of western Culture
during this period did not only export its own varieties of architecture, but also imported the
architectural forms of colonized cultures back to the West as a means to demonstrate their
inferiority as a subjugated people. A particular example of this was expressed through the
colonial exhibitions which reconstructed entire buildings, streets and villages from across the
globe, not so much to educate as to characterize and enhance the ‘superior’ perceptions of
Western culture over the so-called ‘primitive’ and ’inferior’ qualities of non-Western nations.
The lecture today will focus on this set of relations in respect to the development of British rule
in India and the enforced exchange of one set of cultural values for another.
By exploring and questioning the cultural ‘innocence’ of architecture and art and the way such
forms can act as tools of empire, argue the issue of civilization versus oppression from either
of the following positions:
Essay Topic 1: The architecture of British India represented and promoted a ‘civilizing’
influence upon India.
Essay Topic 2: The architecture of British India reflected the indifference, insensitivity and
power of the colonizer.

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