2020 Design Studies Thesis Prize: Karan Saharya’s “In the Name of Heritage: Conservation as an Agent of Differential Development, Spatial Cleansing, and Social Exclusion in Mehrauli, Delhi”
by Karan Saharya (MDes ’20) — Recipient of the Design Studies Thesis Prize
I intend to study the impacts of the architectural conservation of the Qutub Minar Complex on the urban village of Mehrauli, New Delhi, because the manner in which national- and international-level preservation and planning frameworks operate reveals underlying sociopolitical conflicts and instruments of spatial cleansing. The thesis seeks to develop a new framework for the examination of “heritage” in the post-postcolonial milieu that contextualizes the designated monument within the larger urban fabric and can inform policy using a stakeholder-centric approach. I hypothesize that the appropriation of “heritage” in contemporary urban India is a tool to develop elite tourist destinations while displacing local communities, expropriating land, and reiterating colonial-era identity politics.