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South Asia Department

South Asian Cinema and the Diaspora (MA)

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of the term, the students will have a working knowledge of visual practices and the conceptual problems for the study of Indian cinema and the diaspora, and will have the opportunity to apply their understanding of the general theoretical and socio-cultural problems. 

In addition to expressing themselves in writing, the students will be required to lead the class discussion, either individually or in small groups, presenting synthetic overviews of the scholarship on the individual regions of study. This will provide valuable direct experience in using the research resources of the School and of personal and practical experience that will benefit the students in the preparation and writing of their dissertations as well as in future research they may undertake.


4-5 hours of contact via 1 lecture and 1 seminar taught over 11 weeks

Scope and syllabus

This course is meant to provide a series of case studies of various South Asian diasporic communities and their relations to Indian cinema. With focus on:

  • an understanding of the concepts, processes and critiques surrounding the notion of South Asian cinema in the diaspora;
  • 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.

These aspects will provide an opportunity to reflect critically and self-consciously on the complexities of the regions and their diasporas in relation to Indian cinema.

Alongside introductory and concluding sessions, the ten weeks of the term will be divided into four units of two weeks, each concentrating on a single study area selected from: The Caribbean, East Africa, UK and the USA. The topics surveyed will differ from one area to the other, but each biweekly session will begin with a student presentation (if necessary, in groups) providing a survey of the relevant source material and existing scholarly opinion and debate. The second week of each study area will focus especially on the close reading and discussion of one or more primary sources.

For those studying for the two MA degrees offered by the South Asian Languages and Cultures department, the course provides a broad but sufficiently detailed survey of a variety of cinema contexts linked to local and trans-national networks, thus enabling the students to confidently approach the methodological and epistemological questions raised by the study of the South Asian cinema. .

The same holds true for students in the other MAs

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 through out this course are collapsed to present a dynamic and problematic discourse between film/diapsora and migration.

Method of assessment

one 3,500 word essay due on Day 1 of Week 7 (40%); one 3,500 word essay due on the day on which the class is usually taught in Week 1 of Term 3 (40%); one oral presentation (10%) and participation in classroom discussion (10%)

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.