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The Rock Garden: A Study of Memory, Place-Making, and Community in Chandigarh, India


This dissertation disrupts the constructed opposition that has long been integral to scholarly and popular accounts of both the planned city of Chandigarh and the forty-acre artwork and built environment, the Rock Garden, contained within its parameters. The dominant mythology has consistently pitted the city’s architect, Le Corbusier—the heroic mid-century modernist “master”—against the Garden’s creator—the humble villager and “outsider artist” Nek Chand. This work, positioned within colonial and post-colonial studies and urban history discourse, proceeds by analyzing the materiality of both the Garden and the city’s physical structures, the narratives surrounding the international circulation and display of Chand’s sculptures, and the processes of codification and fetishization of the work’s origin narratives. The dissertation excavates the complicated ways in which the work intersects with local, national, and international concerns and illustrates how intricately connected the mechanisms of the Garden are to the central operations of the city. By situating Chandigarh’s complexities as indicative of a contested experience, and by placing the Rock Garden within the field of these complications rather than in opposition to them, this dissertation deconstructs the dominant myth and establishes instead a more carefully connected understanding of artist Nek Chand, the Rock Garden, and of Chandigarh itself.

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