- s a r a i - http://sarai.net -

Independent Fellowship Programme – Abstracts 2004-05

Posted By Sarai On October 10, 2004 @ 12:52 pm In Fellowships | Comments Disabled

Publicity, Promises & the Public Space in Ahmedabad

Prayas Abhinav, Ahmedabad

This project will conduct research into the practices of public communication, commercial as well as personal, in Ahmedabad and thereby document the broken links between the “promises and commitments” made by these practices and their delivery.
This could go on to suggest reasons why and how the dreams, desires, needs of citizens become habituated to remain unfulfilled. This would also explain how these dreams, desires and needs increasingly become space- and freedom- oriented, and how the pressure of existence (which exhibits in both working and personal lives) manifests.

The Culture of Business : The Informal Sector and Finance Business in Vijaywada

S. Ananth, Vijaywada

This project will look at the phenomenon of globalisation as it manifests itself at the local level and in day-to-day economic practices. The primary objective of the study is to demonstrate the manner in which the culture of business at the local level is impacted by the phenomenon of globalisation. The study will look at the finance sector in the coastal Andhra Pradesh city of Vijayawada in order to show the changes in business culture with the advent of globalisation. The finance sector in Vijayawada, as in many other parts of India, is characterised by an interesting relationship between the informal and formal business establishments.

The research will analyse the manner in which the two reinforce and complement each other and show how the informal sector has been affected by the changes that have resulted from globalisation and also the structural adjustment of the Indian economy. The study is inter-disciplinary in nature and method. First, the study attempts to reinterpret what is generally presumed to be the domain of pure economics in terms of cultural history, and therefore makes a strong argument for the cultural foundations of economic activity. Second, the study employs the methodology of oral history such as structured and unstructured interviews to access material and information related to the field of study.

Laghu Patrika Andolan: Abhivyakti ke Naye Aayam – Ek Partal (Little Magazine Movement: New Dimensions of Expression)

Anurag, Ghaziabad

This work will address the world of expansive world of Hindi ‘little magazines’ – its history, its sociology, politics but most importantly, its economics. What still makes it an attractive idea? Why do magazines die? What is the average reach of a magazine? What are the networks of production and distribution? What are the special publication strategies that make one magazine look different from others? Why do we see so many special issues with guest editors? These are some of the questions that will be asked at the outset.

The Shrine as an Anodyne in Strife-Torn Kashmir

Hilal Bhat, Srinagar

The researcher intends to work on changing environs of shrines in conflict-devastated Kashmir, where thousands of devotees take refuge in the absence of modern alternatives for dealing with the stress. In the wake of chaos and mayhem in Kashmir, a shrine remains the sole place where the victims of violence have a chance of getting rejuvenated.

Minds exposed to a continual violence need to either come to terms with or transcend the violent event. This process can be arrived at with the help of a facilitator. In many modern societies, the facilitator might be a psychiatrist. In a cultural milieu where spirituality is more pervasive, the figure of the saint lends itself to the role of a psychic facilitator.

The shrine, not only in its spirituality but also in its aesthetic, evokes a sense of serenity. The aesthetic of the shrines in Kashmir couples their architecture and layouts with a supremely appropriate sense of site. Combined, these factors produce an effect that is spectacular. This research will attempt to track the motivations that make people turn to these places for peace of mind and also gain an idea of how intimately the spiritual and the aesthetic flow into each other. The researcher will delve into an appreciation of shrines in Srinagar as a spiritual, aesthetic, social environments and consider the manner in which these significations provide a therapeutic space.

The Relationship Between the Production and Consumption of Thumri and Allied Forms: The Female Impersonator Bal Gandharva

Urmila Bhirdikar, Pune

This project investigates the relationship between the production-consumption of the North Indian musical genre of thumri (and other allied forms) through gramophone records and the fashioning of the songs of the female characters in Marathi Sangeet Natak tradition, with special emphasis on the female impersonator actor Bal Gandharva.

Though the tradition of stage music in Maharashtra is long, it is not a single tradition, but shaped periodically by musical genres outside this commercial theatre in the late-19th and early-20th century. The nexus between the musical genres and their adoption in theatre reveal the composite nature of this theatre, which drew from the current musical (as well as other artistic) practices.

The emphasis of this project is on the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century, when the north Indian genres of thumri and other “semi-classical” forms were thought to be suitable for representing the “respectable” woman in through theatre. This adoption reveals an interesting relation between the conventional understanding of the thumri genre with kachcha gaana (which also implies less respectable) and the newly emerging discourse of respectability in Marathi theatre. Further, the presentation of the Marathi songs (natya pada) itself seems to have been influenced by the way in which the baijis presented their music through the medium of gramophone records of the 78 rpm era, inviting attention to the shaping of music in the gramophone record format.

The analysis will take into consideration not only the historical and cultural aspects of this phenomenon, but also the musicological aspects of producing and consuming music through gramophone records. Additionally I also propose to look at the apathetic reception of Bal Gandharva’s music when rendered by a “real” woman, Goharbai Karnataki, with reference to the debate on the entry of women into theatre in the 1930s.

Of Riots and Ruins: Space and Violence in Vatva, Ahmedabad

Moyukh Chatterjee and Swara Bhaskar, Delhi

Our proposed area of study is a conglomeration of colonies inhabited by Muslims, Hindus and Dalits, located in Vatva, an industrial (previously agrarian) area on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It was a site of violence during the 2002 carnage and is now informed by post-violence “compromised” peace. We wish to map on this spatial-geographic entity the processes by which contesting discourses of ethnicity, communal identity and multiple explanations for communalisation of “everyday” life are (re) produced. The communalisation of space or alternatively the construction of communal identity with the aid of spatial technologies — like ‘ghetto-isation’ and communal coding of built structures — is a pan-Ahmedabad phenomenon; however, local versions of this pathology manifesting in Vatva are a subject of our study. Other questions of hegemonic discourse formation and the processes of crystallisation of religious identity form the subtext of our project. We hope also to examine both the space occupied by the Dalits as a minority in a majority-minority area (Muslims a minority in Ahmedabad, are the majority in Vatva); as also the unstable position different communities have occupied in terms of social power before, during and after the riots.

Children’s Friendship with Place: Investigating Environmental Child- Friendliness for Children in New Delhi

Sudeshna Chatterjee, Delhi

Despite considerable global attention on making cities child-friendly, specifically through the two prominent global efforts in contexts of low-resources and rapid urbanisation (UNESCO’s Growing Up in Cities (GUIC) projects in 1970s and late 1990s, and the UN Child Friendly Cities (CFC) global initiatives in the 1990s), there does not exist any empirically grounded understanding of the construct of environmental child friendliness. An established body of theoretical literature in environmental psychology, geography, planning and design, however, has proposed that children develop feelings and emotions about their everyday environments which induce powerful, positive or negative images. This literature also emphasises the role of affect in not only explaining how children learn about places, but also, in pointing out what sorts of environments children find most satisfying. This study proposes place friendship as a valid form of affective place relationship in childhood that is different from the more widely studied construct of place attachment. Studying children’s place friendship will allow us to empirically investigate the meaning of child friendly places for children in cities. Such investigations will be especially meaningful in contexts that have large youthful populations such as in Indian cities, in understanding the implications of fast urbanisation and environmental change for the lives of children.

Beeti Vibhavari Jaag Ri: Dilli ke City-scape mein Dik wa Kaal (Time and Space in the Cityscape of Delhi)

Vijender Singh Chauhan, Delhi

This multimedia work will record sound and image and suppplement them with texts and personal prose. The idea is to capture different shades and textures the city inhabits in different time zones and across seasons. The cityscapes selected include Rajpath, AIIMS Crossing, Chandni Chowk, Moolchand flyover, Connaught Place and the Old Yamuna Bridge.

Tapping In: Urban Water Conflicts as Citizenship Claims in Chennai

Karen Coelho, Chennai

This project proposes to explore collective, contentious and transgressive practices of urban citizenship as articulated in claims to water in the city of Chennai. It uses multi-media techniques to interrogate the narratives of order purveyed by the reforming state, from the vantage point of its margins. Municipal water reforms outline a technocratic discourse in which universal service is guaranteed through rational improvement. But the underground grid, the embodiment of this sovereign order, is, as everybody knows, punctured and intersected by bypass connections and illegal taps that reveal the contentious and compromised order of a ground-level service. The project would explore these challenges to the myth of orderly service from the perspective of citizens struggling for access to water. These challenges take a range of everyday forms, from informal arrangements governing access to public fountains and water tanks, to mariyals and illegal taps. These challenges are modes through which the urban public, lacking access to private property in water, assert the sovereignty of a basic need. The points of leakage in the urban order of the grid may constitute sites in which local claims to citizenship are being asserted, challenging liberal (and neo-liberal) norms of individual-based citizenship.

Protest Through Music: A Documentation and Analysis of the Structure, Content and Context of the Musical Tradition of the IPTA

Sumangala Damodaran, Delhi

The protest music tradition in India is largely undocumented in any systematic manner. The formation of the Indian People’s Theatre Association in the 1930s marked a formal adoption of the idea that music and theatre would be used for the conscious articulation of protest. The essential purpose of this project is to begin a process of documentation and analysis of protest music as embodied in the tradition of the IPTA in Hindi and Bengali. In addition, the research will also attempt a preliminary analysis of the structure of the music. The public presentation of the project will involve a presentation of the archival material, interviews and recordings and an analysis of the structure of the music that has been collected. The research also proposes to demonstrate some of the findings of the research through performance.

Hypertextual Poetry: A Study of MSN Poetry Communities

Nitoo Das, Delhi

I propose to study the extremely popular MSN Poetry Communities to investigate changing concepts of poetry according to recent models of hypertextuality. Can anonymous poetry, or rather, poetry written under interesting screen names or “nicks”, change the way poetry is traditionally understood (as a lyric/subjective medium)? Is this self-naming of the poet-persona an attempt to renegotiate the ordinarily held assumptions of the poetically created artefact as being stitched to the body and the imagination of the individual who created the text? The identities that are fostered in cyberspace, especially in such poetry communities, compel us to reconsider definitions of the term ‘virtual community’. Do these poetry sites manage to erase geographical/cartographical identities? Do they show any gender-based separation? How do the ideological structures of the poetic texts manifest themselves in spaces of anonymity or constructed identities?

Recent studies on Hypertext Theory have problematised concepts like the physicality of the written text, as it exists in words and lines and the intelligibility of the text (the meaning and content behind the empirical text setting). In the MSN Poetry Groups that this research seeks to study, the incorporation of annotative links, attachments to enhance readings, multimedia projections of poetry, radically subvert the generic constraints of traditional poetry . The power of the linear text, the publishing industry, the superiority of the published author, all these hierarchies are almost dismissed in the sites that the study wishes to take up for analysis. The study desires to see how releasing (or maybe, how fettering) these dismissals will be to both the cyberpoet and the cyberreader and try to reconfigure the new slippery space between technology and poetry.

Women and their Spatial Narratives in the City of Ahmedabad

Madhavi Desai, Ahmedabad

Situated on the banks of Sabarmati River, the city of Ahmedabad has its roots in medieval times. It has a historic inner city core and extensive modern development all around. The seventh-largest city in India, it has a population close to 4 million today. The basic premise of this research project is that although the city is theoretically available to all citizens, women are not fully able to physically and culturally participate in it. Focusing on the middle class, this research attempts to document the spatial activities and experiences of women in Ahmedabad in the traditional as well as the modern sections. The objectives are as follows: To trace women’s mobility patterns with respect to their neighbourhood and the city, within their social network and outside it; to analyse women’s connection to urban institutions and services such as banks, post office, etc.; to understand women’s activities and sites of leisure such as hotels, restaurants, parks and multiplexes; to look into women’s notions of what a city is in terms of their image and descriptions. The research methods used will include observation, questionnaires and interviews; map analysis and perception drawings by women as well as library research.

The Growth of Print Nationalism and Assamese Identity in Two Early Assamese Magazines

Uddipan Dutta, Tezpur

The advent of print has an important influence upon the arbitrariness of the concept of language as well as nation. Print has taken the role of selecting, codifying and finally making a particular variety the standard variety in many of the world’s languages, and thereby enabling the people to imagine to be the members of a particular speech community and later on to assert a common identity in a geographical space. This study is an attempt to deconstruct that complex dynamic in two of the earlier magazines of Assam in the colonial context of the province. Arunondoi, the first Assamese magazine, was an effort of the Baptist missionaries and in the common literary and historical discourse credited with revitalising the Assamese language which was almost at the verge of attrition due to the colonial policy of replacing Assamese with Bengali as a medium of instruction and language of the court. Jonaki, on the other hand, was the journal brought out in Calcutta in the year 1889 by Axomia Bhaxa Unnati Xadhin Xobha (Association for the Development of the Assamese Language), a students’ body, with an ideological slant towards a linguistic nationalism. It was the endeavour undertaken by the native middle-class that had grown up with English education. The embryonic form of sub-national identity founded in the pages of Arunodoi matures in the pages of Jonaki. The study is an attempt to recount this journey from the unconscious to the conscious by reading through the pages of these two magazines.

Tale Tellers: Dastangoyee, The Culture of Storytelling in Urdu

Mahmood U. R. Farooqui, Delhi

This study seeks to explore dastans, oral fictional narratives of epical length that flourished in Urdu between the 18th and 20th centuries. While they drew on an older tradition in Arabic and Persian, the Urdu storytellers turned what were often one or two volumes of longish stories into adventures of mammoth proportions. Apart from being performed live they also came to be published to great popular acclaim. The most famous of these, the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza, ran to 46 volumes in total, each volume being a folio-sized book of around 1000 pages each, surely the longest fictional narrative in the world. This narrative’s narrator-composers, the dastangos, were also oral performers of an extraordinary calibre who combined the arts of mimicry, ventriloquism, pantomime and voice control to keep their audiences enthralled and captured. Due to their sheer size, inventiveness and narrative power, dastans deeply influenced the nature of other fictional narratives, such as novels, theatre and cinema, that emerged later in North India.

This outstanding fictional and performative tradition has today so disappeared from our memory that not a single public library in India or Pakistan contains the entire Hamza collection. Critics and scholars of Urdu are content to highlight a few bowdlerized single volumes of dastans, produced under British patronage, while wholly and insufferably neglecting the larger body of work. This study seeks to highlight the uniqueness of dastans and dastangoi by collecting archival and photographic materials that might enable the tradition to occupy a rightful place as the most outstanding example of prose narration in Urdu.

The Culture of Crime Pulp Fiction in Bengal

Dev Kamal Ganguly, Hyderabad

The intention of the project is to look closely at those crime thrillers in Bangla which do not have the same recognition as Satyajit Ray’s ‘Feluda’ or Sharadindu Bandyapadhyay’s ‘Byomkesh’ series. These crime thrillers were published in numbers with their grotesquely illustrated covers, cheap quality printing, cheap paper; they were very cheaply priced too. They were a huge hit specially among the pre-adolescent age group even a decade ago. The books no longer exist in significant proportions, but they have left a series of questions relevant for cultural study: what made them successful in their good old days; how were the images of the crime, chase, violence etc., portrayed in those books related to the urban phenomena of the big city; why were they aimed at a particular age group; how did they relate to the tradition of pulp fiction in the West; what were the local inventions of technique in terms of narrating a crime thriller, if any; and how did they imbibe the pulse of their time.

The project wants to initiate these questions and intends to collect and document a representative body of these crime thrillers published. The research will focus on people related to the production of this genre and, by careful classification, scrutiny and analysis of the collected material, try to see this phenomenon in a larger context.

The Kashmiri Encounter in Delhi

Syed Bismillah Geelani, Delhi

It is said that the unique feature of Kashmir is Kashmiriyat. It is this Kashmiriyat which has bound together Hindus and Muslims for centuries and produced a syncretic culture in which Hindus and Muslims could live in harmony with each other. It was said that the armed movement in Kashmir tore apart this syncretic tradition and forced the Kashmiri Pandits to leave the Valley. The study will explore how far the Kashmiris, Hindus and Muslims, living in Delhi have preserved memories of this Kashmiriyat and ask if it binds them together in any way. It will also explore how the armed movement in Kashmir affects the life of these two communities living in exile in Delhi. It will document the real life experiences of these two communities, their encounters with each other, with Indians and with the Indian state.

Excavating Indian Experimental Film

Shai Heredia, Mumbai

This a research project that aims to identify and understand the neglected history of Indian experimental film. Experimental film here refers to filmmaking that explicitly sets out to develop innovative techniques for combining sight and sound, light and word. By challenging peoples’ preconceptions and expectations of the moving image, these films tend to shift interests away from illusionism to reveal the aesthetic possibilities of the materials and processes of the film medium.

Over a period of 6 months, existing documentation on experimental film in India will be unearthed, a database of experimental films, filmmakers, technicians will be compiled, experimental filmmakers, historians and critics will be interviewed, an effort to create a library or archive of experimental films will be initiated, and a research paper offering analysis of the social, political and economic context of experimental film in India will be presented. The research collected will be made available on the Filter website for open and easy access to students, filmmakers and researchers and will also be submitted to Sarai, Delhi.

This project fulfills the need for, and interest in spaces designed to re-examine, critique, and reformulate the idea of film in India and ultimately create an environment for active discussion around Indian experimental film, past and present.

Awazein FM Radio Kee (Voices of FM Radio)

S. M. Irfan, Delhi

The proposal attempts to look at the role of FM in the life of Delhi and its satellite areas. The two aspects of this world are, (a) the world of the radio jockey, and (b) the effect on the listeners, but the proposal concerns itself with the former aspect. The attempt will be to analyse the “content” produced by these jockeys, which are interspersed with the film songs. Questions such as whether there is any internal dialogue on between the anchor and the listener, do these anchors think of radio in terms of social responsibility, is there a gendered perspective in so far as the jockeys are concerned, what “newness” there is about this new dialogue, and whether the anchor believes that the listener needs to be catered to individually as a separate cultural unit.

The project will be based on taped interviews with presenters and their families and recordings of their live shows.

Work Culture in Fast Food Chains

Syed Khalid Jamal and Amit Ghosh, Delhi

In preliminary research for Sarai’s Student Stipendship programme, the researchers looked at working conditions and considered the relationship of employees of fast food chains with their work place, documenting their desires and frustrations mapped their life histories through a process of active listening and participation. During this research, certain fascinating tropes of the fast food profession, such as “smiling” and “mobility”, were articulated.

The “smile” has its own economics embedded at the heart of the food and service industry, of which fast food chains are a small chunk. From the training period to the decisive moments of promotion, the “smile” is considered the single most important factor determining the fate of the employee in the business. It can aptly be said that “smile” is a product which is delivered to the customers at the point-of-purchase. Like burgers and pizzas, employees are trained to deliver this good as efficiently and effectively as any other delicacy mentioned in the menu.

Mobility in the work force is very integral to the fast food chain industry and forms the important aspect of this research project. Often employees are transferred from one department or a sub-department to another, without any prior communication, consent or feedback from the employer. This either leads to frustration or relief, depending on whether an employee is transferred from a high-stress department (such as the kitchen or housekeeping) to a relatively low-stress one (such as servicing), or vice versa.

The research will go further into these aspects and consider the role of gender in the work of fast food chains.

Nautanki Shahar mein: Audyogik Nagri Kanpur mein Lok Manch Kala ke Vikas wa Patan ka Anveshan (Nautanki in the Industrial City of Kanpur: A Historical Study)

Archana Jha, Delhi

This work will explore the conditions of production and popularity of the nautanki form in the colonial and post colonial period in Kanpur. Before nautankis witnessed a decline in the 1970s, Kanpur was considered an important city for these theatrical performances and, in fact, Kanpuri baijis were solicited by other areas on special occasions such as town fairs. It would be intersting to look at the world of raises, akharabazes and the migrant and rural workers who patronised naut ankis. What were the thematic ranges, typical performance structures and genres? Why was song and dance so important to this form and how was it different from theatre?

The Medium is the Community: An Investigation of how Form Affects Discussion and Community in Online Discussion Spaces

Kiran Jonnalagadda, Bangalore

With the advent of social software for the Web (prominently in the form of weblogs and social networking services), we see the Web change from from an information publication space to an interactive communication space. This results in the overlap of what were previously distinct research areas: how the medium affects the message, and how user interface affects usability in computer software. Previous studies by experts have covered online media, online communities and user interfaces, but the new overlap of all three is relatively unexplored. This project intends to study this overlap, of how user interface shapes the communities that form in online communication spaces.

History and Storytelling about Kolkata and Howrah: Integrating Narratives and Database

Vasudha Joshi, Kolkata

According to V. Ramaswamy, a corporate executive and a voluntary activist who has been working in Howrah for several years now:

“For long decades, Howrah has been neglected. During the colonial period, there was a tendency to view Howrah as a coolie town, in comparison to Calcutta, and thus justify institutional neglect in such terms. The sheer backlog of infrastructure and services as the population and especially the slum-dwelling population grew, in turn becoming the pretext for further neglect. Thus, the official view today is that Howrah is a doomed city and nothing whatsoever can be done. Officials responsible for taking action put forward the view that ‘decent people do not go to Howrah.”

This project will straddle history and storytelling about Kolkata and Howrah and will also include a number of other histories of Kolkata through personal narratives. In the course of working on this project I am interested in working on forms that strive to integrate narrative and database, and experiment with how interactivity might work in new ways. The project will integrate video and stills, archive material and maps along with histories and stories.

Messing with the Bhadraloks: Towards a Social History of the Mess Houses in Calcutta, 1890s-1990s

Boddhisattva Kar and Subhalakshmi Roy, Delhi

In spite of multiple references in a variety of cultural productions and historical accounts of 20th-century Bengal, the mess-houses of Calcutta continue to escape full-length studies and remain a largely undocumented career of (post)colonial urbanity. Though almost a thing of the past today, the institution and practices of mess-houses need critical attention to appreciate a widespread practice of forging a community in an urban space throughout the 20th century. Being shot into the status of a colonial epicentre, the city of Calcutta meant education and jobs for many in its neighboring districts and provinces. From the 1890s, the institution of mess-houses surfaced in the city primarily as a residential establishment of the male middle-class migrants who could not afford to hire a whole house and bring their families along. As our preliminary findings indicate, caught between the compulsions of harboring district identities and acquiring urban respectability, the little Sylhets and the little Burdwans in early- and mid- 20th open anonymous public spaces completely submerged in the mainstream urban culture.

In the first place, the project wishes to appreciate the role of the mess-houses as lived sites of the constitution, exercise and contestation of the distance between the metropolis and the mofussil. From extensive interviews and dispersed written accounts, the research would try to recover the fast vanishing histories of the everyday negotiations of identity. Examining and analysing these representational strategies and the exclusionary rules of the mess-house communities, the study would try to map the changing homosocial boundaries of the urban space and record the details of the gradual and checkered emergence of the working girls’ hostels, commonly known as ‘women’s mess-houses’. Finally, we would like to pursue the final days of the mess-houses in and through the various contexts of political situations, flux in the real estate market, growth of the hotel industry, changing job patterns, consumerist tropes and redistribution of social bonds.

The Hospital Labour Room as a Space for Unheard Voices

Kuldeep Kaur, Chandigarh

The labour room is a space that women from every section of society visit; it deals with the most vulnerable group of patients (mother and child); it plays a crucial role in deciding the overall health standards of any society. It manifests the social attitude towards women and children.

Due to a shortage of time and magnitude of importance, the words uttered in and around labour room go beyond the usual cosmetic expressions of society. The expressions captured in the labour room are the real micro-picture of society’s overall attitude towards and children. This study, conducted by a practicing nurse and freelance journalist, will attempt to collect narratives from this space.

Spoke/d Vision: Cyclists in Delhi

Maninder Jit Kaur, Delhi

Like slums, cyclists are seen as impediments and ugly sores on Delhi roads. Though cyclists are officially and existentially lumped together with motor vehicles, forced to drive amidst them, in many ways they more closely resemble pedestrians: they are small, maneuverable, human-powered and exposed to the elements. If speed is power they are literally the most powerless amongst moving-wheel objects. This study would attempt to ethnographically map the life of cyclists through fieldwork and conversational engagements with cyclists about their needs, household incomes, health conditions, employment, etc. More specifically, the study will focus on the survival strategies, competition and collaboration, on the roads of Delhi.

Aa Mata Tujhe Dil ne Pukara: Khani Dilli ki Jagaran Partiyon Kee (Jagaran Tales in Delhi)

Sunil Kumar, Delhi

This work will look at the Jagaran phenomenon in Delhi, especially the Jagaran parties, singers, writers and musicians, big and small. A Jagaran can be looked at as a huge employment avenue, so the financial arrangements are crucial. The other strand in the proposal will see how people gather as publics. How do they use public resources on such occasions? What is the social and administrative sanction for Jagarans? The project will generate an archive of Jagaran material: stories, song books, photos and audio.

Ponytails-Rings-Punches: Female Boxers in India

Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Mumbai

Boxing has traditionally been associated as a masculine activity, identified with the male physique and psychology. Blood, bruises, cuts and concussion, are considered to be “natural” for men, but absolutely at odds with the essence of femininity. Boxing is deeply gendered, embodying and exemplifying “a definite form of masculinity: plebeian, heterosexual and heroic”. Thus, when female boxers display unconventional signifiers like aggression, power and hyper-performity, there arises a confusion and a complete lack of grammar to understand to which category they belong. The feminine signifiers (like make-up, bindis, manicured nails, and hairstyle) are culturally set “natural” signifiers, whether they are carried by a markedly feminine woman in a traditional sense or by a markedly masculine woman. In the context of female boxing, the confusion arises because they combine culturally masculine aggression and traditional feminine signifiers. Thus, in the premise of the ring, they feminise masculinity and masculinise femininity.

High Rise Hygiene: Narrativising Mumbai’s New Urban Culture

Lakshmi Kutty, Mumbai

I want to explore the different narratives of hygiene and sanitation that inhabit Mumbai city spaces today, that emphasise the need for uncluttered, unperilous modes of communication and interaction, entertainment and leisure, finance and vocation, to name a few. The city space, presently and in its vision for the future,- is being plotted in terms of eliminating its polluting excesses. Public attitudes about changing lifestyles in the city, government plans for redevelopment/beautification, increasing market choices and mobility opportunities, concerned citizens groups’ ideas, protests against increasing disparity in living standards — all these narratives are assigning new meanings to familiar symbols, thus creating fully new ways of seeing. What are these new models that are making earlier patterns and ways of inhabiting and consuming the city seem awkward and passé? The project will investigate the exclusionary mechanisms of scrutiny that animate the dominant discourse on hygiene, and will look at how these nuanced tools of power and control are getting articulated in certain print and visual media of the city.

A Study of Changing Banking Practices in Udaipur

Faraaz Mahmood, Udaipur

Eight months ago, when the researcher joined a prestigious private sector bank in Udaipur, he did so with the notion of ensconcing myself in a comfortable and cushioned position in the otherwise volatile world of finance. This was not to be so. He was taken in as an officer trainee but was made to garner hands-on experience right from day one. Within days he was allotted a Financial ID that made him answerable to the corporate office in Mumbai for every wad of notes he handled. Seemingly, the banking procedures have been far more spruced up logically in comparison to those practiced a decade before in the small town in which he lives. Reality, though, is in stark contrast to the virtual appearances. The name of the game is sales and marketing. Banks are no longer the safe havens to park one’s hard-earned deposits and earn regular profits over a period of time. The project intends to make a compartmentalised study of six papers dealing with the profit making practices of the bank as a sales machine, and also will maintain a regular blog of events.

The Viewership of Non Commercial and Independent Film in Delhi

Anannya Mehta, Delhi

This study hopes to understand film viewing as a site of meaning, fun and sharing in Delhi. By meaning, the study hopes to convey the now virtual truism that film viewership has come to mean more than just the act of viewing. The cinematic pervades every sphere of our lives the social, the political, the emotional and certainly the economic. What is the motivation behind the mechanics of viewing, behind the habit of regular visits to Sarai, the India Habitat Centre, the Max Mueller Bhavan, the French Cultural Centre, etc? How do audiences understand, interpret and experience films?How do we unravel the ubiquitous presence of the filmic in our lives? In what way does cinema enter the everyday? What form of group congregation does it result in? If independent cinema (non commercial cinema spaces) acts as a new, still emerging public sphere where different narratives of politics, culture, debate, desire and entertainment intersect, then who are these regular film watchers? What is it that people take back with them?

Reading Histories – Migration and Culture: The Politics of Mapping and Representation of Urban Communities

Kaiwan Mehta, Mumbai

Communities, essentially housing communities are defined on various cultural frameworks that range from migration patterns, employment status, community structures, etc. Very often they create cultural zones, which are not generated through historical or social sequences, but are enforced to create preferred cultures. How does one understand the living space and community space within these living complexes? This is the essential social space that defines the way individuals imagine themselves vis-à-vis family, society and nation. These are the primary generators of notions that define society and space.

How does one holistically document these housing communities? What is a process for a holistic mapping? Architects’ classical tools of the plan and map have limitations. There is a need to create a mode of representation that documents the living space and the relationships that it accommodates, the community and the politics that it generates, the form and the memories and aspirations it provokes. In this context how does one deal with mapping, documentation and archiving in this context.

This will be viewed in light of the fact that documentation and archiving are emerging strongly as a form of architectural practice and urban studies. These mappings result in generating urban histories and also define policy and planning. The inner city of Bombay, the earlier “native town”, which was the area of research interest, was also a prime site for culture, religion and politics. Its history ranged from migration patterns to nationalism and riots.

Factory Closures, Plight of Workers and Urban Space

(Purba Kolkata) Nagarik Mancha, Kolkata

Lockouts in the factories of West Bengal continue to play havoc while the plight of workers of locked-out factories remains largely ignored. It is necessary to zoom in on the state of being of these “de-skilled” workers, on the changes in their lives, purchasing power and livelihood and assess the impact of factory lockouts on the urban space these workers once occupied. Conversely capital, instinctively moving from manufacturing sector to real estate business is, coupled with demands for new housing, triggering dismantling of industrial units on the plea of sickness, leading to thousands of jobless, unprotected workers. This study primarily aims at closely inspecting this synergistic relation between closing down of factories and urban space. It will also study the extent of rehabilitation or self-employment and trace its impact on the surrounding urban infrastructure like markets, schools, tea shops and trading points; observe and analyse the effect of closure on the non-worker section of this urban space; attempt to estimate the social cost of this loss of skill.

Informal Economies and Distribution Practices: Studying Bollywood

Veena Naregal, Delhi

Despite the evident cinephilia of Indian audiences and an estimated current turnover of Rs. 5000 crore, the Hindi film industry continues to largely rely on off-the-books speculative capital and parallel money markets for its finance and distribution arrangements. The distribution and exhibition sectors have been key to the industry’s survival, often influencing both the content and commercial prospects of films. These features of the Indian film trade are, by now, part of popular perception. And yet, scholarly writing on the subject has so far fought shy of any sort of documentation or systematic analysis of industry practices.

The Indian market is roughly divided into five distribution territories, with the overseas market counting as a sixth segment. As Bollywood has responded to openings in global markets, the Hindi film industry has seen several changes in the last few years, including recent efforts to corporatise film finance and production. Although the scale of such interventions remain small, they raise many questions, including how these trends signify a shift in the relations between the film industry, state and market and their possible impact on production, distribution and business practices in the industry.

This study will initiate the necessary task of gathering data and practices in the distribution and exhibition sector. It will focus on representative segments of two major distribution territories: 1) Bombay: comprising of Maharashtra, North Karnataka and Gujarat; 2) Delhi and UP. The fellowship will help to gather and analyse data pertaining to the distribution strategies and trajectories for a small number of pre-identified releases over a two-month period. This data will be collected through field-survey interviews with producers, film directors, distributors, exhibitors, multiplex managers, cinema hall proprietors in metros and small towns, policy makers, banking executives, consultants, trade analysts, film journalists and scholars.

The Eastern Yamuna River Bed: Ecological Imbalance and Future Implications

Leela Rani Narzary, Nidhi Bal Singh, Sabir Haque, Delhi

The research will aim to study the new developments that are being planned in the Eastern Yamuna river bed and document the displacement of the peasants who are pushed to the fringes in the name of development. The study seeks to critique the notion of development which always meant concrete construction and nullifying the concept of National Capital Territory: pulling, as opposed to diverting, more resources into Delhi.

The study will be based on the eastern banks of Yamuna, starting from ITO to ISBT. A quick reference can be drawn from the western bank of the Yamuna which was developed during the Asian games preparation; a similar phenomenon can be seen on the eastern banks.
The Commonwealth Games village is coming up on the eastern banks of Yamuna. The population is closing on to the river, extracting every bit the river could offer. Three years ago, more than 100 farmers were evacuated to build the Akshardham temple; a structure along with commonwealth games village will adorn the eastern banks. This research will be based on the experiences of the farmers on the river banks. It will include the voices of planning experts who explain the hazards of constructions on the river flood plane area.

This research seeks to alarm the citizens of Delhi about the various problems that might come up by this crass commercialisation of the green belt which is supposed to be untouched by the concrete development of the city.

Documenting the Contemporary History of the Making of the Hindi Film Song

Prashant Pandey, Delhi

The merging of sound recording with computer technology to create a sample- and sound file-based approach to production has resulted in an enormous increase in the number of songs recorded. This includes the recording of remixes as well. According to an Indian Express report (19 September 2004) busy singers like Sonu Nigam clock around 120 songs a month (4 songs a day). It is not hard to infer that the new technology has imposed harsh demands on the singers and lyricists.

The key to success is precision, speed and a new kind of professionalism which pre-supposes an ease with recording via Internet or recording a song at home by the singer himself/herself at his/her home with/without help from sound engineers. The sending of audio files (read music) through the Internet has dramatically changed the way the industry works. Singers really do not have to be there in the studio with the music director for recording a song. Music is being produced virtually on virtual interfaces.

Blank Noise: Building Testimonies in Public Space

Jasmeen Patheja, Bangalore

Blank Noise makes its entry through street harassment / “eve teasing”— an offence granted normalcy by its sheer daily recurrence.
Blank Noise was initiated in 2003. The project in its first phase began with a series of workshops that explored the public and private identities of nine young urban Indian women. This collective participatory experience evolved into Blank Noise. Both perpetrator and victim were addressed in the final installation that included video, sound and photographs.

In Phase 2, Blank Noise seeks to intervene in the public space by addressing and confronting the public.

Foodcourts and Footbridges: Conceptualising Space in Vijaywada Railway Station

Meera Pillai, Bangalore

The study will explore how a popular public space, the Vijayawada Railway Station (the largest railway junction on the South Central Railways section in India), is used and perceived by different stakeholders, including street children, rickshaw pullers, railway officials, porters, vendors, and middle-class passengers. The study compares uses and perceptions of this space by street children, middle-class users, and those whose presence at the Railway Station is legitimised by authority. It examines the relevance of different stakeholders in the geography of this space, and asks how this important public utility space in the city reflects and contributes to diversity. It tries to understand how space is conceptualised within intersecting social relationships. It explores whether individuals and groups territorialise and claim spaces within a public utility that is supposedly for the benefit of all citizens, seeking to include some and exclude others from particular areas. Rationales constructed to justify alternative use of contested spaces, and how rules and rationales relate to differing identities and assumptions about identity may also be revealed. Mapping, photography, interviews and focus group discussions will generate data which will be presented in the form of a written report and alternative presentations.

Manuel in the City: A Semi-Fictionalised Illustrated Book on the Arrival and Absorption of Goan Migrants to Mumbai

Rochelle Pinto, Mumbai

This is an attempt to produce a semi-fictionalised illustrated book on the arrival and absorption of predominantly working-class Goans into the growing city of Bombay in the 19th century. It draws on the variety of criminalised representations of these groups available in police reports, government correspondence between Bombay and Goa, and the disparaging writings of the Goan elite. In contrast to these, is the wide range of print generated by the newly solvent migrants, which is more evocative of their encounter with the city, and the ways in which they inhabited and transformed its geography. Goan migrants who constituted nearly ten percent of the population of Goa by the end of the 19th century, were not merely absorbed into a homogenising urban machine. Their institutions and practices in fact were and are a distinct element of Bombay’s urban culture. Their volatile newspapers, cookbooks, hymnbooks and popular novels are evidence of a sophisticated acclimitisation process through which migrants from scarcely monetised villages in Goa were eased through structures which prepared them to appear as salaried and wage labour in Bombay’s offices, restaurants, and dockyards.

The narrative in English will weave together excerpts from advertisements, newspaper articles, novels, poems, and hymnbooks into a narrative. The primary intention in producing a fictionalised form of these accounts is to engage the interest of a wider audience particulary within Goa and Bombay in texts and in the significance of this historical moment which are never otherwise considered a part of literary or print history, and are therefore still not fully a part of a shared legacy. A secondary aim is to bolster an appeal for the preservation of newsprint and popular books produced by Goans through the 19th and early 20th twentieth century. These are valuable resources which are in a state of neglect and may soon be entirely unavailable to the Goan public.

Tracing Spatial Technology in the Rural Development Landscape of South India

Muthatha Ramanathan, Bangalore

This study will critically examine the increasing use of a new suite of technologies, remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS), for planning in the natural resource management (NRM)-based rural development sector in India. The key question is: how is this emerging paradigm altering the nature and content of NRM-based rural development in India? The study borrows from an interdisciplinary theoretical framework that draws from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Critical Development Geography (CDG) to research an NGO’s use of these technologies to facilitate development in a cluster of villages in Raichur, Karnataka. In order to understand the everyday details of the entwined processes of technological and development practice, the researcher will undertake a multi-sited ethnography. The project will focus on the NGO’s motivations for employing these technologies, and how the employment of these technologies alters practices of knowledge production in this NGO.

Hindi-Urdu Kshetra ke ek Sanskritik Kendra ke Roop mein Ilahabad ka Vikas aur Hastakshep (The Development of Allahabad and its Intervention as a Cultural Centre of the Hindi-Urdu belt)

Himanshu Ranjan, Allahabad

Allahabad emerged as a prominent cultural centre of modern esteem in the 20th century, out of a very complicated and controversial background of the so-called 19th-century renaissance (particularly that of Hindi-Urdu belt), engrossed with rivivalist trends and a typical communal divide where Hindi and Urdu were identified with the Hindu and the Muslim religious communities respectively. Ironically, the two languages belong to the same socio-historic demography of the same belt. This unnatural and imposed divide, triggered by colonial vested interests,hampered severely the healthy growth of both the literatures, whereas inherent communal hatred went on to be culminated in the partition of the country.

Nonetheless, the thread of composite culture in India’s pluralistic society prevailed and was nourished significantly by our freedom struggle, anti-colonial struggle, and the new stream of nation-building as well. The century in question witnessed a number of linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-political movements, debates and discourses. The Hindi-Urdu belt provided a fertile land for the same, and it goes without saying that Allahabad has been playing a vital leading role since then.

The Political Sociology of Golf in South Asia

Mario Rodrigues, Mumbai

The golf scene in India has exploded over the last decade with a phenomenal increase in the number of courses, golfers and tournaments. Indian golfers are also shining on the international circuit.

But golf is more than a game today. It is a business, industry, career and lifestyle option. This study will examine the political, economic and social impulses that have unleashed the golf revolution in India and also the contours of its expansionism in Asia.

Golf has also become a dirty four-letter word in recent times. Golf and lifestyle projects involve appropriation of large tracts of land, often in controversial circumstances, by powerful business and political elites, displacement of marginalised peoples from traditional habitats, destruction/alteration of the environment, pollution due to the excessive use of pesticides and depletion of water reserves. This study will focus on some controversial golf projects in India where such violations may have taken place.

It will also look at attempts to promote golf tourism here and take a peep into the mystical world of celebrity and corporate golf as well as that of caddies and explore the situation of both these classes of players, separately and in their interaction.

Media Coverage of the Judicial Execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, and its Impact on Children in West Bengal

Biswajit Roy and Nilanjan Datta, Kolkata

Dhananjoy Chattarjee, convicted of the gruesome rape and murder of schoolgirl, Hetal Parekh, was hanged in Alipore Central jail in Kolkata early on 15 August 2004. The profound impact of media hype over his crime and punishment as well as life and death is multi-dimensional. It still haunts middle-class civil society, media and the state in Bengal. At least 20 children died while playing the convict and the hangman, thus reconstructing and reliving the drama of the ritual killing. The deadly impact of media hype was felt far beyond the middle class city homes as TVs beamed live demos by the hangman Nata Mallick and his apprentices, long before the actual hanging, to rural hamlets.

Among the dead and injured children were the cowherd boys in distant districts as well as slum children in Kolkata and semi-urban towns across the state. The impact was not limited to the West Bengal as it was evident in the reports of similar kind of child deaths from other parts of the country.

The study will be two-pronged and examine the political economy of the manufacturing of the news packages on the hanging: the dynamics of mass media’s response, corporate strategies in creating and harvesting the hype. It will endeavour unravel the real nature of the mass media’s “war with itself” and role of its “contradictory faces” which came to the fore during the months of media obsession with the judicial killing. Did it reflect the ideological and moral fissures within the “system”, the fights against the hegemony of the dominant discourse? Or it was just a balancing act in a bid to underline its “pluralistic attitude and neutral face?”

Early Women’s Magazines in Kerala and the Construction of Femininity

T. P. Sabitha, Delhi

In my project I wish to explore the modalities by which urbane femininity is constructed through the discourse of education in early women’s magazines in Malayalam dating from 1886 (the year of publication of Keralasugunanabodhini, the first women’s magazine in Malayalam) to 1926 (the year of publication of Vanitakusumam, the first women’s magazine to raise issues concerning women to the discursive level of “rights”). Whether to educate women or not and whether it is appropriate for women to be educated in English were hotly discussed topics in Kerala in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. If such questions were answered in the affirmative, the corollary was an enquiry into what kind of education suited women and what the subjects to be taught should be.

All such debates were built on certain predetermined notions concerning femininity. These notions are not uniform or homologous. I have identified three broad discursive categories related to the project of educating women to become ideals of urbane femininity. These are: sexuality, health and hygiene, and physical appearance. All three categories of essays employ these common discursive techniques: desirability, propriety, and women’s moral responsibility for the upkeep of a healthy public. What it is good to be and what it is good to do for women seem to be the two significant questions that will lead to at least tentative answers concerning the colonial and indigenous discursive elements that went into the making of a desirable woman. The dominant discursive paradigm employed in women’s magazines can therefore be identified as that of morality. By looking at these three classes of essays in early women’s magazines in Kerala, the study will explore the fissures in the models of desirability being made available to women through early print culture in Kerala.

Strangers in the City: The Lives and Longings of Bangladeshi Immigrants in Guwahati

Abdus Salam, Delhi

Growing up in the capital city of Assam in the turbulent years of the Assam agitation, the researcher observed xenophobia that immigration, legal or illegal, whips up in the native, those who form an older, inner layer in the societal onion. The resentment and the non-acceptance persists even in a situation where the immigrant, knowing his condition of no-return, makes an extra-effort to ameliorate cultural forms that to the native gaze constitutes an alien manifest.

To understand certain meanings of immigration, of acceptance, of crossing the bridge from being an immigrant to a native, the researcher intends to look at the clusters of Bangladeshi immigrants in Guwahati, especially in their three areas of major concentration: Noonmati, Hatigaon and Dehan Garigaon/ Bidyanagar. The study will look at what drives them to make arduous journeys across the borders of nation states, how the Indian state responds to their ‘trespassings’, how the city they try to adopt takes to them: does it ever become home or do they remain strangers in the city? What means do they invent to navigate the social barricades this moving to a different cultural and linguistic zone throws at them?

The Colorisation of Mughal-E-Azam

Abhishek Sharma, Mumbai

This research intends to document, record and analyze the colored reincarnation of the epic love story, Mughal-e-Azam. It will look into the colorisation, restoration and Dolby re-recording of this film, and will touch the following areas: i) How did the idea of colorisation originate? ii) How was it achieved technically? and iii) How was the film received at the box office? In short, the study will focus on the Artistic, Technical and Commercial aspects of MEA (color) and will find out that why this film represents the face of Indian cinema in all its glory and how it affects the audience of the 21st century.

Contending Techno-Paradigms of Contested Public Space: The Politics of CNG

B. Mahesh Sarma, Delhi

Cities change and mega-cites change massively. Though technologies like the metro, the high rises, the pre-fabs, the malls, CNG, ring rail, and so on appear to drive these changes, a quick look also communicates certain politics behind every one of them. The objective of this study is to unearth this politics, which gets hidden in the brilliance of the artefacts these technologies spin-off. The study intends doing this by examining in depth one of the most visible and massive technologies brought to bear upon us in the recent past, the complete conversion of Delhi’s road-based public transportation system, into CNG mode. It will examine the context under which such a transformation was warranted, the process by which it was ushered in and the actors involved in the whole process, their agendas, both stated and unstated. The study would also look at the interesting ways in which the choices were brought into the public consciousness, and the manner of their negotiation and selection, and finally its results and consequences.

Mapping the Urban: GIS and Master Plans in Delhi and Bangalore

Nitin Sethi, Delhi

The study will look at the way the urban geographies of Bangalore and Delhi are being written using the master plans that are either being developed or those that exist. it shall investigate the distribution and use of geographical and embedded social information, and culminate with a workshop done with college students in understanding mapping of a region and the potential it holds.

Stories of New Entrepreneurship

Prasad Shetty, Mumbai

Contemporary reconfigurations in city economy are most evident when one finds classified government documents or bank cheques being produced in a neighbourhood slum. The rising demand for cheap labour and state’s embracement of global restructurings have significantly contributed towards these reconfigurations, which began with a systematic dismantling of the formal industry and labour subsequently giving birth and nurturing a new breed: the entrepreneur agents. Their tasks included: organising material and labour and give the cheapest bid for production like the Pepsi bottle cap manufacturer or the bank cheque printer; creating demand and selling, like the Amway Agents; felicitating resources and managing crises, like the computer operators or even chit fund operators who arrange quick finances; and brokering knowledge and skills like training people in computer handling, public speaking, etc. This proposal argues that the contemporary city is a city of entrepreneur agents and to understand the new city, their entrepreneurship has to be understood. The project intends to develop a sketch of the new structure through examining the nature of the new entrepreneurships, which have new histories, new requirements and new methods of operations.

Ek Shahar ke Roop mein Gorakhpur ki Pehchan mein Gita Press aur Kalyan ki Bhoomika (Role of Gita Press and Kalyan in the making of Gorakhpur’s Identity)

Jitendra Shrivastav, Delhi

Gorakhpur, even today is neither a complete city nor a town. People in nearby towns call it a city and those in cities like Lucknow and Delhi call it “city-like”. In the east of Gorakhpur one finds Kushinagar, the place where Gautam Buddha attained salvation (nirvana) and in the west is the place of salvation of famous saint poet Kabirdas, Maghar. Gorakshpeeth, the math of the Nath sect is situated in Gorakhpur. It is known as Gorakhnath temple. Gorakhpur is an important city, having a large number of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

The Geeta Press was established by the Late Hanuman Prasad Poddar for “the mental and character development of Hinduism”. It is important to note that Geeta Press published books on Hinduism at very nominal prices. It needs to be researched, what effect these books on religion had on the scientific advancement of Hinduism. It is however very clear that these created an urge to read among the masses. H.P. Poddar published the magazine Kalyan to contribute in the building and development of Hinduism.

Gorakhpur is equally known by the two magazines: Swadesh by D.P. Dwivedi, and Kalyan. But both contribute and present an image of the city in a different way. Swadesh was an important part of the freedom struggle. It had the support and love of one and all above religion and caste which is not true of Kalyan. But still even today tourists visiting Gorakhpur want to see Geeta Press, not because of the religious feelings behind it. The present study, would endeavour to analyse in an objective way the contribution of Geeta Press and Kalyan on the city of Gorakhpur.

Samaj par Langar ka Arthik wa Samajik Prabhav: Ek Adhyayan (A Study of the Langar and its Social and Economic Impact)

Gurminder Singh, Delhi

This project seeks to study the langar as a social institution. Langar is a Persian word, which means a public kitchen. Langars were started by Guru Nanak Dev and carried forward by successive gurus. In a langar, members of the community have to pay for all expenses, bring provisions or personally contribute through labours of love, by cleaning utensils, fetching water or fuel, or taking a hand in cooking and distributing food.


Article printed from s a r a i: http://sarai.net

URL to article: http://sarai.net/independent-fellowship-abstracts-2004-05/

Copyright © 2014 The Sarai Programme, CSDS. CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 India.