I will be speaking at the History of Science Brown Bag Lecture Series at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Many thanks to Prof. Pablo Gomez for the invitation. The talk is titled “Gendering Cement, Cementing Gender: The Puccafication of Subjectivities in Urbanizing India.” Please find a working abstract below.
Houses in the Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh are undergoing rapid transformation from traditional kuccha building materials like mud and bamboo to contemporary pucca building materials like concrete, steel, and glass. Is this change in material infrastructure of building understood equally by all community members? When is change building materials understood as a “gain” rather than a “loss” for rural communities in Kangra? My fieldwork in this region, using participant observation and focus groups, reveals a unique gendered understanding of change in house building materials. In this paper, I draw on the materiality of construction materials like cement/concrete to argue that change in house building materials are not uniformly understood. Rather, they are more situated, nuanced, and specific. These specificities complicate macro, all-encompassing narratives of urban change in peri-urban India leading to contestation among different community members.