Rainbow: The board game of the Indian feminist movement

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013
Dr. Sunitha Chitrapu

Media Studies: Political Economy of the Media
27 September 2015

Rainbow: The Game

: A Guidebook to the Game

Rainbow: This game is one in which the contemporary Indian feminist movement is poised against the dominant hegemonic discourse of the capitalist heteropatriarchal essentialisation of gender and sexual identities.

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History, Identity, and Herstory: 
 A Simultaneous Reconstruction and Deconstruction of the Dravidian Movement

Bhamini Lakshminarayan Shilpa Phadke
Cultural Studies – I
27 September 2015

History, Identity, and Herstory: 

A Simultaneous Reconstruction and Deconstruction of the Dravidian Movement

A friend’s father takes every opportunity he can to point out how unfriendly Tamil Nadu is to outsiders. ‘All of the buses have signs that are only in Tamil,’ he complains. Friends who visit the state complain about the auto-drivers, who attempt to take advantage of those who do not already know Chennai (formerly known as Madras). Indian patriots complain about the sympathy the state showed during the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle for power, and that the last time a national party won legislative power in Tamil Nadu, it was in 1962, when it was still known as Madras State. In the public consciousness, the Tamil identity seems to favour its own.

‘The term “identity politics” is used as a term of abuse by those who see themselves as occupying some unmarked identity such as “Indian citizen.”’1 The phrase identity politics is often employed when discussing the trajectory of the Dravidian Movement, although the exact events occupy a nebulous space in our memory. In our collective consciousness, the Dravidian Movement acts as some sort of metaphor for a form of anti-Indian nationalism – albeit a form that did not have drastic implications on the Indian nation-state because of its democratic processes and stances on minority protection. It stands as a metaphor for a form of identity politics that sought to define itself by its distinctive identity. The questions that arise within the Dravidian Movement are thus: Whose was the community that it aimed to represent, how did it arrive at this identity, and how did it construct this identity’s demands?

Having grown up as a second-generation migrant in Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore), and speaking more English than Tamil, I was never particularly conscious of a Tamil identity, unless it was the 14th of January – when my family would celebrate Pongal instead of Shankranti. I cannot remember a time when I was not aware that I was Brahmin – though I had no idea of what being upper-caste could possibly mean until my older sister came home with a poor report card, and my father warned her that ‘as a Brahmin girl,’ she would never get into a college unless she scored the highest possible marks.

However, I never connected the two identities – being Tamilian and being Brahmin – as holding any particular meaning until I worked in a school in Nagarkudal village, near the city of Dharmapuri, between June-September 2014. When it came to conversations with the students, I found that we often could not understand each other. This was mainly because of my own poor Tamil, or so I believed, until I realised that there were other, compounding factors. For instance, I would ask them to wash their hands before eating (‘kai alambitu va’) and be met by blank stares, until one bright student suddenly realised the problem: I was speaking Brahmin Tamil. ‘Kai karavitu va!’ she exclaimed, repeating my instruction in the form of Tamil that is more widely spoken. At this point, I was forced to realise that being Tamilian did not instantly give me access to the people who lived in Tamil Nadu – I was limited by my language. In a sense, I was limited from interacting with people because I was Brahmin, and I did not know how not to be.

Being a woman is something that I have always been conscious of, in the limits and restrictions it places upon my access to the world around me. Thus, it intrigues me to locate the intersection of these three identities – Tamilian, Brahmin, and woman – in its interaction with the world around itself. In all of the scholarly work surrounding this particular Movement, I have come across none in English that focuses on the particularity of the experience of the upper-caste woman’s. Thus, in this paper, I attempt to document this previously ignored narrative. In an interrogation of the memories of five upper-caste women through a series of telephonic interviews conducted between August – September 2015, I attempt to discover their remembered history, or rather, their herstory of the Movement, and locate their understanding of it.

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The Smoking Woman: An Ethnography of Women, their Cigarettes, and their Spaces

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013
Dr. Jonathan Anjaria
Ways of Knowing: Qualitative Methods

15 September, 2015

The Smoking Woman: An Ethnography of Women, their Cigarettes,
and their Spaces

It was a particularly slow day at the juice shop outside the main campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. In the diffused light of the setting sun, there was none of the comforting cacaphony that develops when dozens of tired students make their way into the respite of the Real World; the world in which they are allowed to be politically incorrect, laugh loudly, covertly roll joints, and – as is common to many in high-stress situations – smoke. This particular evening was a strange one, thus – that is, until I realised that it was a Sunday evening, with most students catching up on their quota of sleep for the week ahead. I, however, had half a dozen texts to read for the next morning, and was, thus, both stress smoking and stress eating. I finished my cigarette in record time, and was procrastinating my eventual return to the library, when I couldn’t help but notice the girls sitting on the steps of one of the two ATMs located on that stretch of road. They had both lit up cigarettes, and seemed to be companionably smoking. I looked at them for as long as I could without seeming like a voyeour, and then mustered up the courage to go talk to them.

“Excuse me,” I said, “Do you mind if I speak to you for a few minutes?” I explained that I had a class assignment that I thought they could help with. This method of participant interaction would seem to be common at the Institute, for they didn’t question my motives, and immediately invited me to join them. Before I could get a word in, though, one of them put her bangled arm out and touched my on mine. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said, waving her cigarette as an indication of what she meant. I had to laugh, and explain to them that it was their very act of smoking which had interested me in the first place. At this, they seemed interested enough to talk to me further.

They introduced themselves as V and S, but requested that if I was submitting any sort of official record of the interaction, that I leave their full names out of the report. When I asked why, they shrugged and eventually arrived at the conclusion that smoking was their personal business, and they didn’t want the Institute involved in it, indicating the fear of a possible backlash for their personal habit. They did not seem to be ashamed of their occupation of the public space for the purpose of smoking, though. V, dressed in a printed salwaar kameez, including a dupatta, periodically sipping from a tiny plastic cup of coffee, and pushing up her glasses, and S, in her T-shrt and shorts, who kept glancing at her smartphone, told me that they met there every evening to smoke one cigarette together and catch up on their respective days. Read more

FanFiction, Fire, and Ice: The Draco/Ginny Fandom as a Critique of Harry Potter

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013
Faiz Ullah
Media Studies: Audience Studies

11th September, 2015

FanFiction, Fire, and Ice: The Draco/Ginny Fandom as a Critique of Harry Potter

DG Christmas by starlettegurly
DG Christmas by starlettegurly

“Just as a literary essay uses text to respond to text, fan fiction uses fiction to respond to fiction.”
Henry Jenkins, “Fan Fiction as Critical Commentary” (2006)

“I cannot give you canon proof that the DG ship will ultimately happen in canon, but I can give you evidence that it can happen.”
BabyPan, “Breaking All Boundries” (2004)

“D/G: Our ship is already crazy, so our fans don’t have to be.”
Echo, author of “I Have Never Felt Your Fear” (2005)

A Google search of “Harry Potter” on an acceptably fast internet connection retreives about 13,00,00,000 results in 0.76 seconds. With 450 million copies sold, and translations in 73 different languages, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is the best-selling book series in history. The series has (officially) spawned eight films, eleven video games, seven audio books, five theme parks, and has a stage adaptation in progress. For Rowling and the related license holders, the franchise has been immensely lucrative – the film franchise alone made an estimated $10 billion between 2001-2011, and J.K. Rowling is both the first author and first woman to have been featured on Forbes’ list of billionaires. But if one moves beyond the capitalist stranglehold that this series has been locked into, one can see its impact beyond the sales figures in the dynamic kinship groups which have sprung up in the fandoms constructed around the Harry Potter series.

In Ang’s (1982) study of the television show Dallas, she claims that Dallas “develop[ed] into a modern myth…It became the symbol of a new television age.” (pp.1-2) Harry Potter has arguably done the very same thing with books, and the form of fan engagement with this phenomenon is intrinsically linked to the internet and its participatory culture. Fans have laid claim to several aspects of the Harry Potter universe, with fan art, fan fiction, fan music (“Wizard Rock”) and fan-generated merchandise (if the licensed partners don’t realise that it’s been created) created all over the world, and distributed primarily through the internet.

In this paper, I focus on a particular, English subcategory of the Harry Potter fanfiction (often referred to as “fanfic”) community: the fanfiction fandom that focusses on the romantic relationship between Draco Malfoy and Ginevra Weasley (D/G, otherwise also referred to as “Fire and Ice”). This relationship is supported, or “shipped,” by a loyal community of Harry Potter fans, particularly those drawn into the Harry Potter fandom through the books. This is despite the fact, or because of the fact, that the couple is never actually shown to have any specific feelings towards each other, neither romantic nor acrimonious. Conversations with participants in this particular fandom gives one the sense that they feel that this lack of engagement between the characters was a lost opportunity for various character and storyline evolutions. This is in line with Henry Jenkin’s (2006) argument that authors use fanfiction as a means to critique the original author’s work; that fanfiction writers are critical commentators. I locate their critique in three primary arguments – lost potentialities/personalities; lost choices/characterisations; and lost sexualities/subjectivites.

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Consuming Resistance: The Political Economy of the Media and Women

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013
Dr. Sunitha Chitrapu
Response #8

11th September, 2015

Consuming Resistance: The Political Economy of the Media and Women

In 1991, India’s Balance of Payments crisis ushered in the era of the IMF/World Bank-mandated conditionalities of economic reform that were focussed on macroeconomic stabilisation, liberalisation, privatisation, and deregulation. This resulted in various consequences that are still being debated, among these being a change in the media that we now consume and create. The liberalised media has shaped the discourses that we consume and create today, shaping them into different forms than those that were prevalent in the pre-liberalised era. Drawing from the ideas I found most relevant in the readings prescribed for this course, I use Adorno (1975), Fejes (1981), McChesney and Schiller (2003), Fernandes (2000), Straubhaar (2003), Chomsky (1988), and Habermas (1989) in an attempt to place the discourse surrounding the women’s movement in India within the nexus of the liberalising political economy and the media.

The wave of feminism in the 1970’s and 1980’s in India focused on the exclusion of women in representational and public spaces, and their consequent lack of political power rendering their existence and arguments nearly invisible; this movement focussed on collective needs. In contrast, the newly liberalised movement is one that focusses more upon the needs of individual sexuality and agency – a change which I locate within the newly consumer-oriented economic space, within which, I  argue, the market claims that the needs of today’s woman can met by specific consumption patterns described and reflected by the media.

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The “Public”: Its Composition and Negotiation by Women

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013 Media Studies
Dr. Sunitha Chitrapu
Response #7

27th August, 2015

The “Public”: Its Composition and Negotiation by Women

Habermas (1962 | 1989) traces the evolution of the word “public,” and its syntagmatic and paradigmatic associations with other words in the English language. In doing this, he locates the word within the changing sociopolitical structures of the European continent, and bases these changes within a materialist reconstruction of history. While he discusses the social stratification of access to the public in terms of lineage and class, he does not locate the particular gendered identity that constitutes and makes use of this space.

The existing economic climate, both internationally and in India, have become refeudalised within the structures of monopolistic capitalism and political beauraucracies. In this, the neglect of women within the composition of the public is not merely an accidental ommission in the bourgeoise evolution, but a systemic exclusion fuelled by patriarchal discourse that, I argue, must be noted in any analysis of the public.

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Capturing an Established Base: The Facist State, Propaganda, and the Media

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013 Media Studies
Sunitha Chitrapu
20th August, 2015

Capturing an Established Base: The Facist State, Propaganda, and the Media

Badgikian (2000) traces the development of the monopolistic nature of the newspaper press in the United States of America, arguing that the very nature and structure of this media has changed in the advent of mass advertising. Formerly radical or liberal newspapers genericise their content and their base once they are established, attempting to capitalise on the advertisement campaigns of large corporations, who, in turn, attempt to capture the established bases of these papers. He seems to assume an undiscerning, passive audience, in line with Adorno’s (1975) conception of mass theory, that consumes the content that is distributed to them.

McDowell (1997) reconstructs the evolution of television broadcasting in India, from the era of state- run broadcasting to the neo-liberal framework adopted in the early 90s. In this, he locates the Indian media within the nexus of national and international capital flows, and reflects upon the policy decisions made in this context. What is of particular relevance in today’s Indian state, I argue, is a particular argument – whose identity and ideals are embodied in the content developed and disseminated as a result of these flows?

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Consent, Manufactured: Mainstream Media and the Essentialised Feminist Discourse

Bhamini Lakshminarayan (M2015MC013)
Media Studies
Dr. Sunitha Chitrapu
13th August, 2015

Consent, Manufactured:
Mainstream Media and the Essentialised Feminist Discourse

Sainath (1999) writes about the shrinking of the public discourse in news and media coverage, an argument that is founded in the theoretical space formalised by Herman and Chomsky (1988 | 2002) and expounded upon in the Indian eco-political context by Guha Thakurtha (2002). Together, they argue that the discourse is one that is centred around vested economic and political interests that propogate a particular “propaganda,” or dominant discourse. In this context, I wish to biefly look at the mainstream discourse surrounding feminism and women’s rights in India, particularly post the December 16th gang-rape in Delhi, 2012.

The entire discourse around rape in India is covered extensively by the international press. New Delhi is often referred to as the “rape capital of the world.” Maria Wirth, a German in India, has written about how German television extensively covered a rape in India, while a rape in her own locality received no proportional coverage. The recent rape in an Uber Cab in Delhi was covered by the New York Times, while the estimated 700 rapes that occur every day in the United States were not appropriated any space in their newspaper.  Before “India’s Daughter” was “Veil of Tears,” which, again, looked upon India with Said’s orientalist gaze. I situate these films and this extensive coverage within Spivak’s argument that “white men save brown women from brown men,” while ignoring the very same instances which occur in their own countries. This very same structure, I argue, is replicated by the mainstream media in Indiain a form of media imperialism, (Fejes, 1981) in which there is the replication of the form of the media, as well as the structures and the gaze in looking at the “entitlements” of the elite, while ignoring the experiences of the Other. Read more

Airlines and Identity Politics: IndiGo and the Construction of the Indian Nation

Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013 | Group 1

Image Making – I
Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayashankar
11th August, 2015

Airlines and Identity Politics: IndiGo and the Construction of the Indian Nation

Last week, the class was divided into groups which were required to deconstruct a certain product or line of advertising. Our group, comprising Milen Mathew John, Pruthviraj Shinde, Ramadas KS, Sanghamitra Dutta, and myself, choose to look at airline advertising. We felt as though this service was an interesting space to examine – private domestic civil aviation services were only introduced in 1990 in India, shortly before the era of economic liberalisation. In this line, we felt as though this particular service reflected a certain middle- class aspiration of a certain economic status and lifestyle, through the creation of certain identities which resonated with the shift towards consumerism as upposed to utilitarianism in the use and purchase of goods and services.

In particular, I focused on an ad released by the private carrier IndiGo, released in March 2010. At this point of time, IndiGo and Kingfisher had an even market share of 18.6%, but were still running behind the established carriers of Jet Airways and its budget airline, Jet Lite. The way IndiGo firmly cemented its position in the public eye, and proceded to rise in public perception over the years that followed, was due, in part, I believe, to its intelligent advertising and branding campaigns.

The marketing of IndiGo is run by the Delhi branch of the New York-based firm Weiden + Kennedy, who have stated that “Advertising is irrelevant if the customer experience isn’t great.” The customer experience that IndiGo attempts to sell is one of cheap flights and a hassle-free and on-time service. This ad, in particular, looks at how the service runs on time – every statement ends with the rhetoric “on time.”

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#PlayItRight: Globalisation, Glocalisation, and the Evolution of Condom Advertising in India

Bhamini Lakshminarayan (M2015MC013)
Media Studies
Dr. Sunitha Chitrapu
6th August, 2015

#PlayItRight: Globalisation, Glocalisation, and the Evolution of Condom Advertising in India

Fernandes (2000) and Straubhaar (2003) argue that in the economic liberalisation of the developing world there occurs the creation of a cultural space, in which the products and cultural artefacts that are imported from the developed world seek to establish and situate themselves within the dominant Indian sociocultural context, while domestic equivalents attempt to reflect the middle-class aspirations of an internationally competitive and relevant India. Straubhaar particularly addresses television programming, while Fernandes addresses the advertising angles and tactics employed in the developing country’s market. In this response, I will be particularly addressing the advertisement and marketing surrounding the sale of condoms in India, tracing the evolution of the domestic advertisements, and contrasting them to those foreign brands that have attempted to establish themselves within India.

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