Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film

Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film

Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film

Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film


Beyond Bollywood is the first comprehensive look at the emergence, development, and significance of contemporary South Asian diasporic cinema. From a feminist and queer perspective, Jigna Desai explores the hybrid cinema of the "Brown Atlantic" through a close look at films in English from and about South Asian diasporas in the United States, Canada, and Britain, including such popular films as My Beautiful Laundrette, Fire, Monsoon Wedding, and Bend it Like Beckham.


Where the political terrain can neither resolve nor suppress inequality, it erupts in culture. Because culture is the contemporary repository of memory, of history, it is through culture, rather than government, that alternative forms of subjectivity, collectivity, and public life are imagined.

-Lisa Lowe (1998a, 22)

Only by weaving the analysis of cultural politics and political economy into a single framework can we hope to provide a nuanced delineation of the complex relations between transnational phenomena, national regimes, and cultural practices in late modernity.

-Aihwa Ong (1999, 16)

You may be an avid fan of diasporic films, eagerly awaiting the release of every new trailer and feature, or you may have casually walked by the video store and found the cover of Monsoon Wedding or Fire intriguing and brought it home. This book should be of interest and appropriate for both audiences. This book, like the films discussed below, should have a similar crossover appeal to multiple viewers-from those interested in understanding gender and sexual politics within racialized diasporic communities to those engaged with questions of agency and subjectivity in globalization and late capitalism. Therefore, this book is about film, but not only film. This project is written to be read in three simultaneous and different modalities. At one level, it is the first study of South Asian diasporic cinema and hence it asks questions generally considered of interest to those wanting to understand the emergence of this cinema, including its history, politics, and aesthetics, as well as readings of individual films. At another level, it intervenes in several theoretical debates occurring in queer, postcolonial, diasporic, cultural, feminist, and Asian-American studies, through the lens of transnationality. By focusing on significant topics such as the nation, subjectivity, agency, and embodiment in these areas, the project enriches and reshapes these conversations by suggesting new directions for analysis. Finally, this book expands transnational cultural critique, proposing a particular site of analysis, namely South Asian diasporic cultural studies. It interweaves the disparate conversations in these arenas in analyzing its object of study: South Asian diasporic cinema.

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