Madhuri Desai

Dr. Madhuri Desai
Dr. Madhuri Desai

Associate Professor of Art History and Asian Studies

Director of Graduate Studies in Art History


237 Borland Building | University Park, PA 16802
(814) 865-4885


  • Ph.D. in architecture, specialization in the history of architecture and urbanism (University of California at Berkeley)
  • Master of Landscape Architecture (University of Texas at Arlington)
  • Master of Architecture, specialization in historic preservation (School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India)

Specialty Area: 

Asian Architecture, Urbanism and Art


Dr. Desai’s research interests are in the area of South Asian architectural and urban history with a concentration on the Early Modern and colonial periods. Her first monograph, Banaras Reconstructed: Architecture and Sacred Space in a Hindu Holy City (University of Washington Press, forthcoming) is an in-depth study of the remaking of the city of Banaras between the late sixteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book presents a fresh perspective on an iconic sacred city as well as on the making of sacred urban environments in South Asia. She has published essays exploring aspects of the urban history of Banaras, including, most recently, an essay titled “City of Negotiations: Urban Space and Narrative in Banaras (Routledge, 2011). Dr. Desai also has an abiding interest in the historiography of South Asian architecture and has explored this scholarly area through publications in anthologies and journals. Her essay, “Interpreting an Architectural Past: Ram Raz and the Treatise in South Asia,” was published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians in December 2012. She is the co-editor (with Mrinalini Rajagopalan) of an anthology titled Colonial Frames, Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture, and Modernity (Ashgate, 2012). This collection includes her essay titled “In Search of the Sacred and Antique in Colonial India.” She has also published book and exhibition reviews in the JSAH, Verge: Studies in Global Asias and the Journal of Art Historiography. Dr. Desai teaches upper-level courses in the history of architecture and urbanism in South Asia. She also teaches surveys on the architecture and art of Asia, South/Southeast Asia, and Islam. She was a recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship from Yale University’s Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (London) for fall 2010.