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Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi: Writing With: Togethering, Difference, and Feminist Architectural Histories of Migration

by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi | Jul 30, 2018

Arguments presented here grew from the deep input of refugees and aid workers I met in camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, and elsewhere. I am thinking carefully on ways of writing with them.1

The analytic of migration offers a platform to pose two arguments. The first is that the dynamic of a situated and re-situated perspective is foundational to feminist histories of architecture. The second is that it performs the indispensable work of destabilizing historiographical presumptions of and desires for fixity at the heart of the architectural discipline.2 In following these arguments, this essay bolsters a growing body of feminist historiographical initiatives, which aim to redistribute power and co-produce solidarity through collaborative and intersectional practices that reassess objects and methods that have long constricted the labor of architectural history within the humanities and broader academy.3

Feminist architectural histories of migration and mobility may be isolated into two conceptually distinct, but related streams.4 One focuses on the vernacular, the folkloric, the everyday, and the anonymous, by transnationally mobile, cosmopolitan, modernist figures who have practiced across nations and continents, empire and postcolonial space, and borders of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and ideology. Margarete Schütte-Lihotsky’s kindergartens, Sybil Moholy-Nagy’s grain silo, Lina Bo Bardi’s Bahia, Minnette De Silva’s artisan, Denise Scott-Brown’s Las Vegas, and Hannah Schreckenbach’s mud architecture each stemmed from the view of a stranger, and turned a lens on culture: positing architecture not as exceptional, but as entangled with many other forms of cultural production. Another finds empowering links between mobility and architectural forms and practices in narratives of and by migrants whose designs, built forms, and constructed environments have not been understood as authored, or in anonymous objects, illegible within the frameworks of modern architectural history. The authority embodied by mobilities—in works such as camps built by refugees, exhibitions curated by exiled artists, or urban spaces seized by protestors, to name a few examples—poses a challenge to the purported stabilities of the architectural discipline. Such works have enacted forms of power predicated upon migration and mobility (or their mirrors, restriction and confinement), creating or unsettling architectural discursivity. Historically, they may have lacked signature, but not significance.5

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This article was published in  e-flux Architecture which is a sister publishing platform of e-flux, archive, and editorial project founded in 2016. The news, events, exhibitions, programs, journals, books, and architecture projects produced and/or disseminated by e-flux Architecture describe strains of critical discourse surrounding contemporary architecture, culture, and theory internationally.  More information, click here


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