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”

Conceptual diagram indicating spatial cleansing and social exclusion around Qutub Minar monument

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.