Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Popularity of Nonsense and Possibilities of a Counter-Culture

A paper on popular culture.

The full text and pdf can be found here.

[An abstract : The first part of this paper tries to analyze the ways in which 'popular' culture becomes popular and the role that racism and hatred plays in the same, citing a few explicit instances of prejudices that have appeared in Indian media over the last few years. It includes a news report in Mail Today that dalit women appointed as cooks in schools of Uttar Pradesh divided the schoolkids on caste lines; a blurb on a Sunday Times of India story that listed reservation as a social evil along with crime and corruption; a cartoon by Jag Suraiyya and Neelabh that considers Mayawati's figure ugly; reports on wikileaks 'revelations' about Mayawati without mentioning that the source the information is journalist circles of Lucknow; instances of Malayali obsessions of making moralist judgements on women and their hatred towards migrant labourers from other states and a nursery rhyme that plays up the 'white pride'. It is followed by instances of how the subalterns internalize the Brahmanic cultural supremacy and become a part of playing to the galleries knowingly or unknowingly.

The second part first reviews some theories on the power of mass media and considers some possibilities that the popular nature of the popular culture offers to counter the underlying racism and hatred, mainly in the Indian context. What follows is an overview of some of the contemporary cultural resistances in India, both outside the mainstream and within the mainstream. Two recent events that created disturbances in the dominant cultural sphere, one a television advertisement of a soft-drink and another a batting display by West-Indian Cris Gayles, are taken note of.]

[An initial Malayalam version of the same appeared in Pachakuthira monthly, Published by DC Books, in its July 2013 issue.]