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  • Writer's pictureNusrat Jahan Mim

Subaltern Virtuality: Virtual Hegemony and Domestic Architecture in Postcolonial World

Antonio Gramsci coined the term “subaltern” to reveal the presence of small social groups of people on the fringes of history. Subaltern can be perceived as negative space or position of dis-empowerment, a position without social or political agency, and access to the power or hegemony. Today the emergence of ubiquitous computing, virtual social network, and globalized image culture have created a new group of subalterns in the virtual world. Amounts of tweets, likes, views, shares etc. have started to appear as a dominating factor in determining the “status” of a person in the virtual world and hence, have created a virtual hegemony, where the new subalterns do not have any voice/control over any kind of virtual standardization (mostly westernized). Moreover, to become a part of the virtual community, they often feel forced to bring changes in their physical life and space, sometimes even by losing their cultural identities.

This thesis explores, questions, and re-imagines such virtual subaltern scenario in a form of architectural experimentation. As the context, the mushroomed middle-income apartment housing of Dhaka city (the capital of Bangladesh) has been chosen for its history of postcolonial struggle, existing resource constraints, and dense active participation in virtual social media (2 million active Facebook users in 2017). To project a certain “standard” image of their living space in virtual world, the apartment dwellers are changing the way they occupy their home traditionally. Instead of having home (single/multifamily) as a unified architectural entity, now there is a “front stage”, where documentation for social media takes place and a backstage – the real home. Based on 4 different scenarios/cases from the context, this thesis develops a series of speculative visual representations of apartment spaces/complex, which reveals conflicts between the cultural identity of the subalterns and the dichotomy of front and backstage. Rather than trying to solve such conflict as an architectural problem, the speculations offer radical alternatives to provoke response from the subalterns and to raise critical thoughts around such virtual domination.

Thesis Advisor: Elizabeth Krietemeyer, Marcos Parga, Syracuse University School of Architecture.

Thesis Link here


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