• Vocal Instruments: Minnette de Silva and an Asian Modern Architecture
    Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi

Minnette De Silva in her studio at St. George's (November 5, 1997), Kandy, Sri Lanka. Photo: Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi.

Vocal Instruments attends to aesthetic claims by Indian institutions and figures upon a wider Asian architectural and visual heritage. It reads the practice and thought of colonial to post-imperial organs of architectural discourse such as the Archaeological Survey, the Government Schools of Art, and the journal MARG through the intellectual work of Sri Lankan architect Minnette De Silva. Richly instructive together for its debt to these institutions and critical lens upon them, her career offers a reflexive regional view from outside Indian national hegemony as well as a scene of a woman practicing architecture professionally in the early years of Independence. Setting her work and that of these modernist initiatives into broader regional and international struggles between nativisms and globalisms sharpens an investigation into constructions of autochthony understood to offer purchase on authority and authenticity: laboring at once as rationales and as discursive instruments of cultural and national identity.

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi is assistant professor and faculty fellow at NYU’s Gallatin School, and coeditor of the forthcoming book, Spatial Violence (Routledge, 2016). She writes and teaches on the history and theory of art, architecture, urbanism, and constructed environments, drawing from substantive research in East Africa and South Asia, as well as study in anthropology and cultural theory. Siddiqi’s manuscript on the heritage and aesthetics of humanitarianism, as seen in architectural and territorial figurations from the eighteenth century to the present, engages with static and mobile architectures that compose landscapes of intervention; settler and pastoral land use practices in pre- to post-imperial Kenya and the Somali borderlands; the visual rhetoric of the Dadaab refugee complex; and archival silences. Her research has previously examined African and South Asian modernisms, spatial practice across borders, and the aesthetics and politics of heritage and emergency. She holds a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.