Shreya Kareti Humanities and Social Science
Constructions of French Colonial Urban Space: A Study of Pondicherry
My project focuses on the French colonial presence in South Asia, focusing on the coastal town of Pondicherry, which was established as a French trading post (factory) in 1674 and relinquished to the Indian government only in 1954. Studies on French India are notably sparse in comparison with the significant scholarly attention that has been paid to British India and to French colonial holdings elsewhere. Because of this, I aim to complicate the narrative of a monolithic colonialism in India. I contend that the architecture and urban form of a city is directly emblematic of its creators priorities and mission. Thus, in closely analyzing eighteenth-century French visual and textual records on colonial domestic forms in Pondicherry and scrutinizing the architectural form of extant buildings, I will ask how and to what extent a hybrid aesthetic was fostered in Pondicherry. I will juxtapose my study of Pondicherry with analyses of architecture in Madras and Tranquebar (Pondicherrys British and Danish counterparts, respectively) to provide a comparative understanding of European colonial settlements as they navigated different ways of approaching spatial politics.