(Re)Configuring Atmospheres: Design, Technology and the Quest for ‘Pure Air’ in Colonial India

Monday, 20 May, 2024 - 16:00

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My presentation shall focus on practices and technologies through which air was sought to be rendered ‘pure’ in cities in colonial India. In particular, I shall draw attention to hygienic discourses that prioritized ‘sunshine and fresh air’, street design and architectural features that aimed at better ventilation and temperature control, electricity and air-conditioning that were popularized in the late colonial period, as much for cleanliness as for cooling, and products such as soaps and mouth wash that advertised their ability to deal with germs that populated the atmosphere. Through these, I shall outline how (i) urban atmospheres were sought to be modified at the local scale to ensure greater comfort and health and (ii) how individual bodies sought to adapt themselves in response to prevailing atmospheric conditions, both being inflected by relations of race, class and gender.

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