ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unravelling the ‘Black Town’

A Hygienic City-Nation: Space, Community, and Everyday Life in Colonial Calcutta by Nabaparna Ghosh, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2020; pp xvi + 224, `795.

Popular Culture and Caste: The Three Indias

Mainstream media content in India tends to reflect the dominant character of the people who own, work in and consume it, and either by default or design tend to invisiblise the sizeable number of Dalit, minority, Other backward castes and indigenous population who together make the overwhelming numerical majority in the country. These sections do figure in the media but are stereotypically depicted as poor, as victims, villains, ugly, etc. However, the marginalised sections constitute a large and diverse group which in recent years has found its voice in the aftermath of traumatic experiences like the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula. The advent of social media, falling prices of smartphones and data also disrupted the gatekeeping of content by traditional media houses and enabled the Dalits and OBC young people to access technology and access audiences which consumed content – music, news, entertainment – to which mainstream media did not cater, thus democratising access to media and lowering thresholds and bringing fresh talent to create content and give voice to a large but invisiblised marginalised audience.

Telugu Cinema and the Image: Exploring the Potency of an Icon

In cinema, using an image that is not part of the story invites the audience’s minds to move and make connections that the film-maker is hinting at. This is an attempt at exploring the potency of an image and to elicit that using an iconic image to layer a story can open it up for multiple nuanced readings. Telugu films over the last three decades have added to the caste discourse very fleetingly and often halfheartedly. In a few exceptional situations, Telugu films have said something caste-conscious and it often tends to be outdated or tokenistic. When an image is placed or used correctly, the power or potency of the image can move people and their passions in ways only cinema is capable of. So juxtaposing Rudraveena (1988) which uses Gandhi’s image powerfully, with Palasa 1987 (2020) and Narappa (2021) that use Ambedkar, brings out a more complex layer to the storytelling.

Gestures of Cultural Justice: Narrative Justice for Phoolan Devi in Epic Recounting

The epic tale of Phoolan Devi has inspired several studies and artistic works around her life and struggle. This includes her representation in the works of literature, cinema, painting and other genres. They brought complex discourses around the politics of representations and the question of genre and medium itself. None of these studies, however, examines how Mallah, the caste Phoolan Devi belonged or the local subaltern communities want to project Devi in their narrative discourses. Thinking through the epic and ballads on the life of Phoolan Devi, created by her own community in particular and Bahujan community in general, this article reads the representation of Devi as a case of narrative justice. From Devi’s image as a revengeful figure and the Bandit Queen of popular culture, Phoolan Devi has slowly emerged as the queen of justice for the local subaltern communities. Contrary to the sensational approach of popular and the voice to the voiceless approach of the scholarly writings, the epic narratives around Phoolan are more steady and up to the mark to engage with the contemporary discourse of caste, gender and intersectional representation. Though there are many ballad singers and performers who sing the story of Phoolan Devi in birha and alha style, I discuss the alha of Phoolan Devi by Ajay Sahni, a singer from Mallah community. I situate their representations or recounting of Phoolan’s life as part of cultural justice that involves the battle over the relations of representation and “correcting” the discourse of narrative injustices. This article also raises the question of genre—which is a genre more capable of bringing the agency and struggle of a particular community. As the epic performance brings the question of morality and recognition in strong ways, the forms become explicitly political, unlike the other genres. Both the epic forms alha and birha situate the discourses of what is to be human. The form is specially very popular in Bundelkhand region from where Phoolan belonged to. This makes the genre very special to discuss the question of representation.

Re-Casteing the Narrative of Bharatanatyam

In this article, the author highlights the ways in which her subjectivity and selfhood as a hereditary Bahujan woman practitioner of Bharatanatyam are entangled with the past and with an enduring and dark politics of exclusion in the industry of so-called “classical” music and dance. Bharatanatyam—India’s quintessential “classical” art—has today, understandably become a vehicle for theatrical representations of Hindu mythology, Brahminic ethics and supremacy, and thus for majoritarian cultural politics. The author reflects on the practice and connotations of Bharatanatyam that are accepted today and historically embedded with the ugly truth of caste mimesis, the inheritance of appropriation, the danger of religious majoritarian culture, and the silencing of voices of dissent.

International Migration and Caste Dynamics

The understudied nexus between international migration and caste in Tamil Nadu is examined. The findings indicate that the Backward Classes were the forerunners in benefiting from international migration opportunities. It shows that the trend has gradually influenced the Most Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. Backward Classes have an edge over the other communities in achieving economic prosperity through international migration. However, left-behind wives who were engaged in income-generation activities were yet to overcome from the practices of caste-based occupation that are still prevalent in villages.

Inclusivity and Growth under the ‘Dravidian Model’

The Dravidian Model: Interpreting the Political Economy of Tamil Nadu by A Kalaiyarasan and M Vijayabaskar, Cambridge University Press, 2021; pp 260.


Political and Electoral Dynamics in Punjab

Given the political churning taking place in Punjab, the electoral scene may remain quite fl uid until the votes are counted and perhaps even after the results are declared. Nevertheless, the current elections refl ect a clear decline of the earlier hegemonies, particularly of the landed aristocracy of the region, which has controlled state politics over the past fi ve decades or so.

Political Churning in Punjab before the Elections

The assembly elections are going to be held in Punjab in February 2022. All political parties are gearing up for it. The Congress party is facing internal conflicts, whereas the Akalis are making a new alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party after breaking their alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party due to the farmers’ agitation. The incumbent Congress government has failed to deliver in terms of its promises and development. Both the Akalis and the Congress will be heavily relying on their mass base. However, a big challenge has emerged in the form of the farmers’ agitation. The Aam Aadmi Party is still struggling with its agenda and organisational basis despite being the main opposition party. The standard parameters of prediction of an election result seem to be non-functional at this moment.


The Buck Stops Here

The principal implications of the 105th amendment to the Constitution are discussed, which is an issue bristling with explosive potential.

Women Who Persisted Nevertheless

Fleeting Agencies: A Social History of Indian Coolie Women in British Malaya by Arunima Datta, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Global South Asians), pp 240, 1,099.


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