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South Asia Department

South Asian Cinema and the Diaspora

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The course aims to introduce students to Indian cinema amongst South Asian diasporic communities. Therefore upon completion of the course students will have developed and be able to demonstrate the following:

  • an understanding of the concepts, processes and critiques surrounding the notion of cinema in the South Asian diasporas;
  • to engage in colonial and post-colonial histories, national and transnational politics, migration and identity, with primary focus upon cinema space, Indian films and audiences reception;
  • the conceptual tools and vocabulary to analyse critically (and not just describe or narrate) a body of films from the contexts of their production, reception and content;
  • to identify key research agendas in the study of non-western cinematic traditions, by drawing upon various social and cultural viewing patterns amongst different South Asian diaspora localities; and
  • to deploy this knowledge to critique the dynamics of South Asian cinema in the diaspora.


A one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar plus a 2 to 3-hour film screening taught over 11 weeks.

Scope and syllabus

The course is designed to revisit theoretical paradigms of diaspora and migration with specific reference to visual culture in Indian cinema. In terms of the syllabus; this will be structured around designated film viewings, lectures and tutorials. Therefore, the course is effectively divided into three segments: theoretical and conceptual frameworks, 'non-western' viewing and 'first' world viewing, covering ten weeks of one teaching term with a one week period in the third term devoted to revision. During the ten weeks of the teaching terms, students will watch one film per week [in square brackets below] which is indicative of the theme of the lecture and around which the tutorial session will be structured.

Week 1 The South Asian diaspora [Kal Ho Naa Ho]. Overview of the conceptual complexities of understanding the Diaspora and relationships to Indian cinema.

Week 2 Theoretical paradigms of vision and reception [Boot Polish]. 'Reading' films, audiences and representation.

Weeks 3,4,5 Regimes of seeing Indian Cinema in 'non-western' spaces: Guyana, East Africa, and former USSR. [2 Documentaries], [Baghban] [Bandini]. Different places produce quite specific social, cultural and political practices that unite as well as contest notions of Indian identity.

Week 6 Bollywoodization of Indian Cinema [Pardes]. Key contributing factors to the rise of Indian cinema are explored.

Week 7,8,9 Bollywood in the 'west': UK, USA and Europe. [I Proud to Be Indian], [Bombay or Kabhi Kabhie], [Andaz]. Emphasis is placed on how these 'communities' of viewers relate to and participate in the visual dream of living in the 'west'.

Week 10 Competing aspirations within South Asian Diasporas' [Mohabbatein]. The ideological separation of 'west' and 'non-western' diasporas throughout this course are collapsed to present a dynamic and problematic discourse between film/ diaspora and migration.

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination taken in May/ June (50%) and one 2,500 word essay to be submitted on the day on which the class is usually taught in Week 1 of Term 3 (50%).

Suggested reading

  • Adorno, Theodor (2001). The Culture Industry, London: Routledge.
  • Appadurai, Arjun (1990). 'Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Economy', Public Culture, 2, 1-24.
  • Banaji, Shakuntala (2006) Reading ‘Bollywood’: the young audience and Hindi films. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Benjamin, Walter (1970). 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical reproduction', Arendt, Hannah (ed), Illuminations, London: Lowe and Brydone.
  • Chakravarty, Sumita S. (1996). National identity in Indian popular cinema 1947-1987, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Dabydeen, David and Samaroo, Brinsley (1987). India in the Caribbean, London: Hansib.
  • Dabydeen, David and Samaroo, Brinsley (1996). Across the Dark Waters. Ethnicity and Indian Identity in the Caribbean, London: Macmillian.
  • Desai, Jigna (2004). Beyond Bollywood: The cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film, New York: Routledge.
  • Dudrah, Rajinder K. (2002). Vilayati Bollywood: Popular Hindi Cinema- Going and Diasporic South Asian Identity In Birmingham (UK), Javnost ,1,19-36.
  • Dwyer, Rachel (2005) One hundred Bollywood films. London: British Film Institute/Berkeley: University of California Press/New Delhi: Roli Books.
  • Dwyer, Rachel (2006) ‘Planet Bollywood: Hindi film in the UK.’ In N. Ali, V. Kalra and S. Sayyid (eds) Postcolonial people: South Asians in Britain. C. Hurst & Co: London: 366-75.
  • Dwyer, Rachel and Pinney, Christopher (2001). Pleasure and the Nation, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Fuglesang, Minou (1994). Veils and Videos: female youth culture on the Kenyan coast, Stockholm University: Almqvist and Wiksell International.
  • Hall, Stuart (1990). 'Cultural Identity and Diaspora', Rutherford, Jonathan (ed), Identity. Community, Culture, Difference, London: Lawrence and Wishart.
  • Hansen, Thomas Blom (2005) ‘In search of the diasporic self: Bollywood in South Africa.’ In Raminder Kaur and Ajay J. Sinha (2005) Bollyworld: popular Indian cinema through a transnational lens. New Delhi: Sage Publications: 239-260.
  • Kumar, Amitava (2000). Passport Photos, London: University of California Press.
  • Larkin, Brian (2002). 'The Materiality of Cinema Theaters in Northern Nigeria', Ginsburg, Faye D., Abu-Lughod, Lila and Larkin, Brian (ed), Media Worlds, London: University of California Press.
  • Macedo, Lynne (2002). 'The Impact Of Indian Film In Trinidad', The Society For Caribbean Studies Annual Conference Papers, Vol.3.
  • Mankekar, Purnima (1999). Screening Culture, Viewing Politics, London: Duke University Press.
  • Mehta, Brinda (2004). Diasporic (Dis)locations, Jamaica: UWI Press.
  • Mishra, Vijay (2002). Bollywood Cinema, Temples of Desire, New York: Routledge.
  • Morley, David (1995). 'Theories of Consumption in Media Studies', Miller, Daniel (ed), Acknowledging Consumption, London: Routledge.
  • Nandy, Ashis (1998). The Secret Politics of our Desires, London: Zed Books.
  • Pinney, Christopher (2002). 'The Indian Work of Art in the Age pf Mechanical Reproduction: Or, What Happens When Peasants "Get Hold" Of Images', Ginsburg, Faye D, Abu-Lughod, Lila and Larkin, Brian (ed), Media Worlds, Berkeley: California University Press.
  • Prasad, M. Madhava (1998). Ideology of Hindi Film, New Delhi: Oxford UP.
  • Prashad, Vijay (2000). The Karma of Brown Folk, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Rajadhyaksha, Ashish (2004). 'The 'Bollywoodization' of the Indian Cinema: Cultural Nationalism in a Global Area.' Kaarsholm, Preben (ed), City Flicks, Calcutta: Seagull Books.
  • Rajagopala, Sudha (2008) Leave Disco Dancer alone! Indian cinema and Soviet movie-going after Stalin. New Delhi: Yoda Press.
  • Ray, Manas (2004). 'Chalo Jahaji: Bollywood in the Tracks of Indenture of Globalization.' Kaarsholm, Preben (ed), City Flicks, Calcutta: Seagull Books.
  • Shohat, Ella and Stam, Robert (1994). Unthinking Eurocentricism, London: Routledge.
  • Spitulink, Debra (1993). 'Anthropology and Mass Media', Annual review of Anthropology, 22, 293:315.
  • Srinivas, S.V (2001). 'Is There A Public In The Cinema Hall?' Framework The Journal of cinema and media.