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Desai wins prestigious art history book award

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Desai 2019

Madhuri Desai, associate professor of art history and Asian studies, has been awarded the 2019 Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award by the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH).

The prestigious award honors Desai’s book, “Banaras Reconstructed: Architecture and Sacred Space in a Hindu Holy City,” which examines the iconic Hindu religious center in Northern India, often described as the oldest living city in the world. The book is a pioneering study of Banaras, its urban history and its architecture, because it examines the confluences as well as tensions that have shaped the complex and remarkable city.

The Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award was established in 1949 to recognize annually the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of architecture published by a North American scholar. The prize is awarded by peers from the Society of Architectural Historians in recognition of a book that they believe made the greatest contribution to the field within the past year.

“It is incredibly exciting for me to win this award, and it actually took a few days for the fact to sink in completely after I received the news,” Desai said. “In addition to my professors at UC Berkeley and editors at the University of Washington Press and the Global South Asia series, I’d like to recognize my husband, Nandu, and my family in India for their unconditional and unstinting love and support, as well as my colleagues in the Department of Art History who provided a collegial network as I completed the manuscript over several summers.”

Desai is the first art history faculty member from Penn State to receive the award, which Cassie Mansfield, head of the Department of Art History, said further enhances the reputation of the department as a leading program in architectural history.

“The SAH book prize confirms what we here at Penn State already knew. Professor Desai is a leading scholar in her field and her research is making an important contribution to the study of architectural history,” Mansfield said. “With this book, professor Desai combines painstaking archival and on-site research with innovative interpretive methodologies. Hers is an ambitiously synthetic approach that requires expertise in a number of areas and, truly, no one else could have written this book.”

Desai received the award on April 25 at SAH’s 72nd annual international conference in Providence, Rhode Island.

For more information about the SAH and the Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award, you can visit the organization’s website