Event — Webinar

The joint enterprise of charity: Bombay’s Royal Alfred Sailors’ Home and its neighbours

This is an online interactive lecture by Preeti Chopra, professor of architecture, urban history, and visual studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA.

The lecture will take place from 11:00-12:00  a.m. Amsterdam Time (Central European Summer Time, CEST).

What is the joint enterprise of charity? Why is colonial Bombay’s Royal Alfred Sailors’ Home a good example of it? Why did a Hindu prince and the colonial government pay for the costs of a palatial building for housing European sailors? How does the building’s neighbourhood contribute to its meaning?

Colonial Bombay’s monumental Royal Alfred Sailors’ Home (1872-76) is one of its most well-known Gothic Revival structures. Part of a worldwide network of sailors’ homes constructed in the British empire, this building housed European sailors, in hopes to convert them to sobriety, respectability and practising Christians.

The building was designed by the architect Frederick Williams Stevens (1848-1900). A native Hindu prince and the colonial government of Bombay partnered together to pay for the building and site, making this building exemplify what I call the 'joint enterprise of charity'. What does this mean, and how does it differ from philanthropy? 

Preeti's presentation explores why this building was constructed in Bombay at this time. In the decades that followed, how did this charitable building fit in with its neighbours and the urban landscape of colonial Bombay? On the one hand, she will show that the building’s neighbours included the evolving joint public realm of the city. This consisted of spaces and institutions for the public-at-large, many of which were paid for by Indian philanthropists and the colonial government. On the other hand, she shows that the Sailors’ Home was the first of a set of buildings constructed in the neighbourhood that served elite and non-elite respectable Europeans. Together, these buildings formed an emergent border of European control, south of and in some cases opposite the arena of the joint public realm. By bringing the later history of the Sailors’ Home to bear, Preeti's presentation reveals how this spatial confrontation was resolved.

The speaker

Preeti Chopra is professor of architecture, urban history, and visual studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is trained as an architect (CEPT, Ahmedabad, India), landscape architect, urban planner, and architectural historian (University of California, Berkeley, USA) and has conducted research in western and southern India in the colonial and postcolonial contexts.  Chopra is the author of A Joint Enterprise: Indian Elites and the Making of British Bombay (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011). She is currently working on a second book tentatively entitled, Communities of Care: The City and its Fragments in Colonial Bombay.  Her work has been supported by numerous research grants and fellowships. She is currently a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, the Netherlands.

The webinar

The lecture will take about 30 minutes. After that, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage directly with the speaker and the rest of the audience.