Kathryn Hardy, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Ashoka University
In metropolitan Mumbai, politicians have increasingly courted a “regional” Bhojpuri-speaking migrant vote, identified with young men from the North Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. By sponsoring Bihari religious functions, these politicians directly address a Bhojpuri migrant collective ostensibly convened before them, with the aim of winning votes and displaying their own political power. In this talk, I question the self-evidence of this Bhojpuri political collective and the language that it purports to reflect. Instead, I argue, its address is possible only through the sedimentation and deployment of signs — images, sounds, and sometimes, language — that emerged in the course of commercial cinematic production. Commercial film production processes, while not explicitly political, in fact elaborate the social persona and political subject called “the Bhojpuri crowd,” naturalizing its address through the discursive practices of filmmaking and the spatial practices of cinema exhibition. Spatial, sonic, and embodied sign fractions that emerge from cinema are mobilized or troped upon by politicians to align with or fractionally distance themselves from the “Bhojpuri crowd.” This talk follows the use of Bhojpuri language, spatial orientations of crowd-ness, and other visual and sonic signs from their cinematic emergence to their manifestly political deployment during a ‘regional’ religious festival in Mumbai.
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