Venugopal Maddipati, Ph.D.


Venugopal Maddipati holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and is Assistant Professor at the School of Design at Ambedkar University, Delhi. He is currently working on his monograph titled Architecture as Weak Thought: Gandhi, Wardha and Presentism in Colonial and Post Colonial India. This monograph, which comes out of Venugopal’s post-Ph.D. field-work and archival research, will explore the intersections, over the course of the twentieth century, between Gandhism, architecture and contemporaneity in the district of Wardha in Central India. He has recently published two essays, one on the contemporary artist Simon Starling’s interpretation of the architectural patronage of Yashwant Rao Holkar, the erstwhile Maharaja of Indore, and another, in the Sarai 09 Reader, on aging and material transformations in urban architecture, particularly in the context of the work of the architect Charles Correa, and the contemporary artist Asim Waqif. His current work relates to the intersections between traditions of water-harvesting, architecture and visibility in contemporary Indian art. He is working on an edited volume, Liquescent Materiality: Water in Global South Asia, 1500-2000, along with Dr. Sugata Ray, University of California, Berkeley. In addition, he is also working on a second monograph on architecture and geology in late nineteenth century South Asia.

Chaitya (Worship Hall) at Bhaja: Circa 1st century BCE
Chaitya (Worship Hall) at Karle: Circa 1st century CE to early 2nd century CE

Research Project

Deccanizing the Absolute: Deep Time in the 19th century imagination of Buddhist and Islamicate Architecture (Bhaja, Karle, Bedsa, Girar and Ajanta)

One of the more peculiar aspects of 19th century British colonial writing on the Deccan plateau in central India relates to its emphasis on how the region’s pre-modern patrons of architecture and material culture had superposed their perceptual imagination of organic material upon basalt. Be it in the writings of the architectural historian James Fergusson, or that of the geologists Stephen Hislop and Robert Hunter, one finds considerable emphasis on how the creation of an architectural or material culture in such diverse shrines as Girar, Bhaja, Karle, Ajanta and Ellora, was premised on the semiological obscuring of the materiality of the very stone constituting those shrines. My research examines the peculiar ways in which this British colonial emphasis on a human semiological obscuring of stone in the pre-modern period, arose in conversation with the then emerging conception of a more absolutist deep history of the Deccan that transpired beyond semiology or even histories grounded in human or divine necessity. More significantly, I explore how the emergence, in the British colonial imagination, of pre-modern architectural and material cultural semiological systems, did not merely reference the emergence of human reason in the Deccan region. Rather, in the British colonial imagination, the emergence of semiological systems was, paradoxically, itself an entirely contingent event, in keeping with the progression of an unreasonable time in which pure contingency reigned absolutely.