History of Art and Architecture

Mrinalini Rajagopalan

Chair and Associate Professor


Mrinalini Rajagopalan is a historian of the built environment and is particularly interested in the impact of colonialism and nationalism on the architecture and urbanism of modern India. Her first monograph Building Histories: The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi (University of Chicago Press, 2016) traces the modern lives of five medieval monuments in India’s capital city, Delhi, and brings attention to their contested histories, unexpected uses, and ideological appropriations by state and non-state actors. This book received the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2018.

Her next book “Marks She Made: The Art and Architecture of Begum Samru, 1803–1836” (under contract with Manchester University Press) focuses on the artistic and built works of Begum Samru—a wealthy dowager who rose from humble beginnings to become a military commander and later an independent ruler in nineteenth-century North India. Portraits and buildings were key diplomatic tools employed by Begum Samru to establish alliances with powerful male leaders such as Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II, Pope Gregory XVI, and King Louis Philippe of France. Rajagopalan is also incubating a second more ambitious project, that investigates the various architectural products of the Tata Corporation created during India's long twentieth-century transformation from a European colony to a socialist nation and most recently to an eager participant in global neoliberal markets.

At Pitt, Rajagopalan offers courses on the built environment in Western contexts and the global south; global urbanisms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the modern history of architectural preservation in metropolitan and colonial milieus; and the history and theory of contemporary architectural practice. As part of the department’s anti-racist initiatives, she has also developed an undergraduate seminar called “Black Built America: Architectures of Black Resistance in the United States”.

Before coming to Pitt, Rajagopalan held fellowships at Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. She holds a professional undergraduate degree in architecture and practiced for four years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Ahmedabad, India where she worked for noted architect and Pritzker laureate Balkrishna V. Doshi.

Rajagopalan welcomes queries from prospective PhD students interested in pursuing histories of the built environment as it intersects with questions of imperialism and nationalism, and gender, race, and other intersectional identities, in the global South.

Education Details

PhD, University of California, Berkeley (2007)

M.S (Arch), University of California, Berkeley (2003)

B.Arch., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1996)

Selected Publications


Marks She Made: The Art and Architecture of Begum Samru, 1803-1836 [under contract with Manchester University Press, Rethinking Art's Histories Series

Building Histories: The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

[Co-edited with Madhuri Desai] Colonial Frames, Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture, and Modernity (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012).

Recent Peer Reviewed Publications

“Marooned Moderns: Preservation and the Long Shadow of Colonialism in South Asia” in Martino Stierli, Sean Anderson, and Anoma Pieris eds., Modern Architecture in South Asia: The Project of Decolonization (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2022).

Introduction to Swati Chattopadhyay, "Blurring Boundaries: The Limits of ‘White Town’ in Colonial Calcutta” in 80 years of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. (Published July 2021).

 “Stationary Women Moving Through the World: The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Calcutta, founded by Mrs. Pascao Barretto de Souza, 1834” in Contemporaneity, Vol 9, No. 1, Spring 2021, Issue: Mobility & Exchange: Moving Across/ Through Cultures.

 “Teaching Architectural History in a Time of ‘Perpetual War’” in Dialectic VII: Architecture and Citizenship (Journal of the School of Architecture, University of Utah, Fall 2019).

“Loss and Longing in Late-Mughal Delhi: The Āṣār-us-Ṣanādīd and Early Syed Ahmad Khan” in Yasmin Saikia and Raisur Rahman, ed., The Indian Muslim: Reading Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

"Cosmopolitan Crossings: The Architecture of Begum Samrū" in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 77, No. 2, June 2018.

"A Nineteenth-Century Architectural Archive: Syed Ahmad Khan’s Āsār-us-Sanādīd" in The International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Vol 6, No 1, March 2017.

Selected Awards

National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2024

University Center for International Studies (UCIS) Major Impact Grant, 2024-25

Venetian Research Program for Scholars Grant, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, 2023

Allen W. Clowes Fellow, National Humanities Center, 2020–2021

Clark Art Institute Fellowship, 2020–2021 (declined)

Senior Fellowship, Center for the Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, 2020–2021 (declined)

Mid-Career Fellowship, Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art, Spring 2017