Sonali Dhanpal

Princeton-Mellon / Princeton Institute for International Regional Studies / Humanities Council Fellow

Princeton-Mellon / Princeton Institute for International Regional Studies / Humanities Council Fellow

Sonali Dhanpal is an architect, architectural historian and theorist whose research sits at the intersection of global urban history and studies of colonialism and capitalism. She examines how contextual assemblages of race, caste and class are produced by and materialize in the architecture and urbanism of late colonial South Asia. Her research brings together decolonial thought, critical race and caste studies to examine the political economy of housing, land and property within broader struggles for space under racial capitalism.

At Princeton, Dhanpal will be working on her first book, “Caste and the City: Spatial Politics in Colonial and Princely Bangalore” drawing from her Ph.D. project undertaken at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University  as the inaugural awardee of the Forshaw Scholarship. This project is the first to examine the unique overlap of princely and British colonial rule in the city of Bangalore, to unpack how inhabitants navigate this political complexity through divergent spatial practices, revealing the inextricable relationship between caste and the city. She previously earned a M.A. in Conservation Studies from the University of York and a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the Dayananda Sagar School of Architecture.

In spring 2024, Dhanpal will offer a class “Race, Caste, and Space: Architectural History as Property History,” where students will engage with and draw from a cross-comparative spatial history of caste in South Asia and race in America to understand a ”global” architectural history by examining the political economy of property in both contexts. Students will learn to analyze from archival, visual, and drawing methods and build on them using open-source digital tools.

Dhanpal’s fellowship is made possible by the Mellon Foundation, the Humanities Council, the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.