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Sidh Losa Mendiratta Awarded Research Grant

by Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra | Nov 28, 2023

Sidh Losa Mendiratta, researcher at the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra (CES-UC), has just won a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to lead the project ID-SCAPES - Building Identity: Religious Architecture and Sacral Landscapes of Christian Minorities in India and Bangladesh.

Sidh Losa Mendiratta explains: "The ID-SCAPES project focuses on the Portuguese-influenced cultural heritage associated with Christian minorities in India and Bangladesh, a heritage that is transcultural, multifaceted and sometimes contested, but always essential to the history, identity, and resilience of these same minorities." The study focuses on South Asia, examining for five years the cultural and religious heritage built before the 19th century in India and Bangladesh. Based on archival research in various locations in Europe and the USA, and fieldwork on selected religious buildings, the project proposes a lens of analysis that goes beyond studies carried out so far, incorporating factors such as caste, local artistic traditions and the actions of the so-called “native” clergy. The ID-SCAPES project considers the diversity of realities and challenges facing the different ethnolinguistic communities in India and Bangladesh, and the essential role that religion and cultural heritage of religious nature continue to play in the collective identity of these communities.

This study is particularly urgent at a time when several countries in South Asia are being affected by hegemonic policies and agendas, sometimes jeopardising the integrity and management of the cultural heritage of religious minorities. The researcher explains that "many of the churches in India and Bangladesh founded before the 19th century have disappeared, are in ruins or have been profoundly transformed, and there is a sense of urgency to analyse and document the churches that remain". The project will produce a visual database, which will include photographs, drawings, and iconography related to this body of religious architecture of high cultural significance, which reflects the dialogue between Portuguese-influenced architecture and local influences from South Asia, but also from countries such as Italy, France, and the Netherlands.

The main objective of ID-SCAPES, according to Sidh Losa Mendiratta, is "to produce a Social History of the Architecture of medieval and early-modern sacralised churches and landscapes in India and Bangladesh, revealing the influences of different agencies, identities, and traditions on the various scales and dimensions of the buildings".

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Sidh Losa Mendiratta joined SAH in 2008. He was awarded the Rosann S. Berry Fellowship in 2009. He served as a conference speaker in 2018 and as a session chair in 2023.  

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