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Postcolonial identity in a globalizing India: Case studies in visual, musical and oral culture

Postcolonial identity in a globalizing India: Case studies in visual, musical and oral culture
Sangeet Kumar


Department of Communication Studies, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.


This dissertation analyzes three case studies located within the cultural landscape of India in order to explore the multifarious forces at work within the construction of Indian identity. It uses the lens of identity to excavate the interactions between the past and the present and the east and the west within the rapidly changing cultural scene in India. I analyze how diverse Indian identities are represented on the Indian version of the reality TV show Big Brother, I study the ways in which Indian youth playing rock music imagine themselves and explore how employees at Indian call centers negotiate an imposed western accent and cultural garb with their Indianness. Through these studies my project claims that the tensions between the remnants of a colonial past and a globalizing present must be centrally foregrounded in any attempt to understand the ongoing changes within contemporary Indian culture. I show this tension to be at work within the interstitial sites that each of my case studies represents and within which a stable conception of an “Indian” identity becomes increasingly shaky. I show that while the exercise of power and the assertion of agency are crucial components within global cultural flows, the binary is eventually a false one since the two must invariably occur together. It is the ability of power to morph itself in order to better appropriate its counter and become hegemonic that explains the processes of global cultural flows today. I show that in the case of India this morphing crucially relies on certain vestigial structures of colonial rule and in so doing seek to introduce a differentiation of history within theories of cultural globalization.