Swati Chattopadhyay

Of Small Spaces Forgotten

How does one recuperate the ordinary landscape from the nineteenth-century colonial archive, dominated as it is by elite discourse, key political events, and exceptional buildings and infrastructural interventions?  For example, how do we access the everyday sites of work within domestic confines, populated by servants and women, who have left only small footprints in the historical archive? I am using the term “small spaces” to refer to these sites–marginal in disposition, importance, and imagination, if not in physical extent–that are marked by a difficulty of representation. These spaces and activities do not register in the dominant culture. Using examples of nineteenth-century residences, I will suggest some techniques of reading these ordinary spaces to argue that taken together, seen through a different analytic of materiality, they are potentially powerful.


Swati Chattopadhyay is Professor and Chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the current editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and JSAH Online, and the author of Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism, and the Colonial Uncanny (Routledge, 2005), Unlearning the City: Infrastructure in a New Optical Field (Minnesota, 2012). She has published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Third Text, Historical Research, Journal of Material Culture, Design Book Review, PostColonial Studies, Marg, and Urban History, as well as several anthologies. She is the co-editor (with Jeremy White) of a forthcoming volume: City Halls and Civic Materialism: Towards a Global History of Urban Public Space.