Below is the abstract and a link to my MA thesis (2018) in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder titled, “(De)Constructing Concrete: Meaning & Materiality in Postcolonial India.” Many thanks to my thesis advisor: Prof. Mara Goldman and committee members: Prof. Tim Oakes, Prof. Yaffa Truelove, and Prof. Shawhin Roudbari for their constructive comments and feedback. https://scholar.colorado.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/47429935t
(De)constructing Concrete: Meaning and Materiality in Postcolonial India
Across rural India today, house building practices are rapidly transforming as communities discard traditional(kuccha) building materials like mud and bamboo and use modern (pucca) ones like concrete and steel. Within the elite urban discourse in India, the use of concrete is perceived as “bad” and “unpleasant,” due to massive energy costs associated with its production. Moreover, the association of concrete with ideas of modernity are considered primary reasons for these changes. However, not much is known about the circumstances under which changes in building material technology take place and about how these transformations play out in the daily lives of rural communities in India. This thesis aims to understand how transformation from traditional to modern building material technology occurs in a case study of Kandwari village in Himachal Pradesh province, northern India. Research findings suggest that there exist multiple reasons that explain the ubiquitous use of concrete in Kandwari village. Research participants are objectively aware of the benefits and drawbacks of concrete as a building material and are not easily swayed by its associations with colonial and post-colonial modernity, as popularly understood in urban India. Moreover, concrete use is understood differently by various members of the Kandwari village community based on identities of caste, class, gender, ethnicity, age and profession. These findings complicate simple, macro understandings of change in building materials taking place in Kandwari village. There are several factors at play that make the practice of using concrete in Kandwari a dominant and pervasive one. These range from social factors like caste, class, gender and ethnic affiliations to technical factors like cement, sand, stone, mud, roads, etc.