At the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, realization grew that, at several times the level of annual revenue, the Public Debt had become a permanent institution to be serviced in perpetuity. This talk looks at land and socialization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in light of this “financialization” of the British economy, a process that would have a spiraling effects across the globe. The objects under investigation here are the follies of garden Britain, Ireland and America, compared with the Zamindari bagan-baris and thakur-baris (garden estates and estate-temples) of colonial Bengal as a coterminous type. The follies and thakur-baris can be read as differential markers in a dispersed set of concerns and anxieties over nature, economy, government and religion, all of these headings being themselves synthesized and systematized into new epistemic fields through the course of the long eighteenth century. The talk looks at the entanglement of two of these new epistemic fields – “economy” and “religion” – in this context, particularly in the places where the singular, secular temporal expectancy of a ballooning, perdurable Public Debt was seen as interjecting into eschatologically-defined conceptions of obligation and existence. The shards of the Mughal Empire in India, and the “Augustan Age” of eighteenth-century Britain, abruptly joined into a single system by the fact of global capital, present signal comparisons and contrasts in their constructions of time even as they are bound by the same temporal devices of debt and finance. It is as if folly and thakur-bari, signifiers of disparate tempos of memory and divinity, speak to each other through a kind of imperfect translation, a heteroglossia called the economic.
Arindam Dutta is Associate Professor of Architectural History in the Department of Architecture, MIT. Dutta teaches surveys and advanced research courses at the graduate level, and directs the SMArchS Program at MIT’s Department of Architecture. His teaching interests are in the area of modern architectural theory and history, imperialism and globalization, gender and body politics, Marxist thought, and post-structuralism. Dutta obtained his Ph.D. in the History of Architecture from Princeton University in 2001. He has degrees in architectural design from the Harvard Design School and the School of Architecture in Ahmedabad, India. Graduating with gold medals from his undergraduate institution in India, Dutta has been the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, the Getty Fellowship, in addition to numerous research grants and awards. Dutta’s articles have appeared in the Journal of Society of Architectural Historians, Grey Room, the Journal of Arts and Ideas, and Perspecta. Dutta is the author of The Bureaucracy of Beauty: Design in the Age of its Global Reproducibility, (New York: Routledge, 2007), a wide-ranging work of cultural theory that connects literary studies, postcoloniality, the history of architecture and design, and the history and present of empire.
Cosponsored by the South Asian Institute and the Institute of Religion, Culture, and Public Life.