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Hinglish Workshop, 18-19 August 2014

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Hinglish: The Social and Cultural Dimensions of Hindi-English Bilingualism in Contemporary India

The relationship between Hindi and English has undergone enormous changes in contemporary India in the last ten years or so. After over a century of language nationalism and almost as long a period of intense competition and mutual contempt, in post-liberalisation and post-low caste assertion India the boundaries between English and Hindi have suddenly become more porous, and the hold of both “pure Hindi” and “British/pure English” has become much more limited. English is of course still the language of greater opportunities in global terms, but as job opportunities grow significantly within India itself and the “new middle class” remains resolutely bilingual in its everyday and entertainment practices, the relation between English and Hindi (and in variable terms between English and other Indian languages) has become less a zero-sum game and more a relationship of parallel expansion.

The term “Hinglish” (code-mixing and code-switching) that is usually employed to describe this phenomenon actually covers a great variety of social phenomena and cultural practices (Snell and Kothari 2011). Not only is the view from metropolis like Delhi and Mumbai vastly different from that of small-towns or villages—much as they are bound together by media like newspapers and TV and by great mobility of education, labour and jobs—media experts have rightly distinguished between Hinglish as a “language of survival” and as a “language of fun” (Joshi in Snell and Kothari 2011). The present collaborative project seeks to explore and understand the new porousness of Hindi and English in everyday and cultural practices through a number of locations and domains of language use.

In particular, the project seeks to explore the relationship between language choice/use and social and cultural imaginaries. If, to give one example, Hindi and English literature in post-Independence India have proceeded on quite separate paths, did this separateness produce and reflect different cultural and social imaginaries in terms of class, mobility, and cultural referents (Indian or non-Indian)? Do English and Hindi still represent different (though by no means exclusive) languages of emotion (Orsini 2002)? And has the situation changed in the present circumstances?

Linguists who have studied code-mixing and code-switching have done so in contexts of specific oral exchanges and with very small samples (e.g. Bhatia, Sharma) that are important but too limited to understand the broader cultural and social phenomena at work here. Historical studies of bilingualism and diglossia usefully suggest to chart the relationship between languages across different domains, for diglossia is too rigid and hierarchical a term to describe such phenomena (XX).

The present project aims to focus on four thematic clusters—work, emotions & relationships (love, friendship, family), politics, and cultural repertoires/referents/preferences—across a range of domains of language use in the tradition of Cultural Studies:

TV “Infotainment”: news programmes with public participation (Aapki adalat) and reality shows; TV serials (one example); Hindi cinema in the twenty-first century: Hindi cinema has recently witnessed a distinct “English turn”, usually explained in terms of its greater sensibility towards/catering for the Indian diaspora, but also of its reflection of Indian metropolitan characters (Kothari in Kothar in and Snell 2011). At the same time, English never quite supersedes Hindi in mainstream cinema, and “Hatke cinema” delights in linguistic play. The 1990s have also seen the revival of regional Bhojpuri cinema, some say as a reaction to this English turn. Select film examples

The language and rhetoric of politics: one of the main reasons for the growing salience of Hindi in the media and in public life has recognizably been the rise of regional parties and politicians. Whether it is Mayavati, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar (? who else?), their “vernacular rhetoric” has been part and parcel of their political persona, though political vocabulary (and its acronyms) is among the most translingual (OBCs, Dalit, etc.). (Pragya?) NGOs One dimension of the project will investigate the rhetoric, voice, and cultural and social repertoires in a select number of Hindi and English political leaders (e.g. book of interviews with Mayavati).

Literature: While for decades Hindi and English literature have scarcely been cognizant of each other, more recently “Hinglish” has become the hallmark of Indian fiction in English geared at the Indian youth market (e.g. “chick lit” authors like Anuja Chauhan and Advaita Kala), and of the burgeoning popular Hindi youth-oriented literature. What about their cultural and social imaginaries? The issue of mobility and of cultural referents will be the central focus here.

Documentaries and critical/political cultural forms and initiatives: critical cultural production such as documentary film-making has significantly tried to draw upon non-English cultural resources to make their arguments about the plurality of non-state culture. We will focus on the Gorakhpur film festival as a significant cultural initiative in the “Hindi heartland” (perhaps Kabir yatra?). Select documentaries (Paromita Vohra).

Remix culture: pop music and music channels (Paromita Vohra, Anna Morcom). What cultural resources are brought into play here, and with which audiences in mind?

Core Group

Francesca Orsini, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Ravikant, The Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

Rachel Dwyer, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Paromita Vohra, film-maker, writer and curator

Workshop Programme, 18-19 August 2014

The Hinglish workshop is being organised by The Sarai Programme, CSDS, and SOAS, University of London. This workshop seeks to explore and understand the new porousness of Hindi and English in everyday and cultural practices and the relationship between language use and social and cultural imaginaries, along lines of inclusion, stratification, and exclusion.


Monday, 18 August

09.45-10:00 | Welcome and Introduction

Ravi Vasudevan, The Sarai Programme, CSDS
Welcome Address

Francesca Orsini, SOAS, University of London
Introduction to the Workshop

10:00-11.30 | Language, Education

Ayesha Kidwai, Jawaharlal Nehru University
The linguistics and politics of mixed codes: Understanding site and manner

Snehalata Gupta, teacher and PhD candidate, Central Institute of Education
‘Hinglish- A Bridge or a Destination?- Exploring Hindi English bilingualism in the classroom’

11:30-12:00 | Tea / Coffee Break

12:00-01:30 | Newsmedia

Rohit Prakash, Hinglish project fellow
Remix ke daur men Hindi: Hinglish aur Navbharat Times

Arshad Amanullah, Jamia Millia Islamia
The language of Urdu news – any mixing?

01:30-02:30 | Lunch

02:30-04:00 | Cinema

Rachel Dwyer and Helen Ashton, SOAS, University of London
‘I do fatafat constipation with goras in tip-top gora English’: Hinglish and English accents and speech in Jab Tak Hai Jaan (Dir. Yash Chopra, 2012)

Ratnakar Tripathy, ADRI, Patna
Mixing in Bhojpuri cinema and music

04:00-04.30 | Tea / Coffee Break

04.30-06:00 | Film Songs

Ravikant, The Sarai Programme, CSDS
Phir bhi Dil hai ‘Hinglishtani’? Historicising the contemporary

Paromita Vohra, Independent Film-maker
Hinglish in film songs

Workshop Dinner


Tuesday, 19 August

10:00-11.30 | Radio and TV

Vineet Kumar, Hinglish Project Fellow, B R Ambedkar College
एफ़एम रेडियो: आदत और सहजता के बीच हिंग्लिश

Suman Parmar, Hinglish Project Fellow, Rajkamal Prakashan
Channel V serials: the changing language of a youth-oriented TV channel

11:30-12:00 | Tea / Coffee Break

12:00-01:30 | Literature

Aakriti Mandhwani, Hinglish Project Fellow, Ramjas College
Hinglish and Contemporary Hindi Popular Publishing

Francesca Orsini, SOAS, University of London
‘Not too nanga-panga? Work, love, and aspiration in Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor

01:30-02:30 | Lunch

02:30-04:00 | Work and Politics

Sanjay Srivastava, Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi
Sudden Selves: ‘MTI (‘Mother Tongue Influence’) and Personality Development: The Making of New Labour in North India

Apoorvanand, University of Delhi
Language strategies in political speech

Final discussion

Rita Kothari, Looking back at Chutneyfying English
Alok Rai, Emeritus, University of Delhi
Abhay Dube, Bharatiya Bhasha Karyakram, CSDS


Essential readings for the workshop can be found here.


Read the abstracts of the papers to be presented at the workshop here.


Audio recording of the presentations from the workshop can be accessed here.