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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Suffering and Spectatorship: Sectarian Violence in Indian Documentary Film and Media
by Jain, Anuja, Ph.D., New York University, 2013, 343; 3557003
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation analyses the role of Indian documentary film and media in lending representation to sectarian violence in post-Partition India, with a focus on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, subsequent 1992-93 Bombay riots, and the 2002 Gujarat genocide. Following various audio-visual engagements with the shifting forms of militant Hindu nationalism over almost a decade, the dissertation asks: what are the ethics and meaning of witnessing, telling and listening in an 'era of the witness,' when the desire and will to contribute audiovisual testimony about catastrophic events and social suffering is readily observable across the globe.

The dissertation begins by mapping the complex media ecology—the video newsmagazines, 24 hour satellite news channels, Hindu Right propaganda videos and state news broadcasts that marks the post 1990s liberalization landscape in India. The first part of the dissertation lays out this audiovisual cartography to critically analyze the culture of instantaneous media flows, emergent media-body multiplicities that transforms the very nature of value, consumption, pleasure, and the catastrophic in rapidly globalizing India.

As the dissertation interrogates various sites of mediation, and the demands that narratives and images of conflict place on the human sensorium, it argues that the tenets of the debate around the vicissitudes of representation of suffering and trauma have now shifted. With the prolific mediations, and unprecedented visibility to such genocidal moments, the questions have gravitated towards the possibility of an affective history, and linkages of ethics and spectatorship.

The second part of the dissertation focuses on the documentary representations of catastrophic violence, and argues that in engaging with this crisis of secularism within the Indian polity and social life, the political documentary mobilizes a new mode of spectatorship, an 'empathetic spectatorship,' where the subjectivity of the new 'embodied citizen-spectator,' comes to be situated in linkages between ethics, moral responsibility and empathy. The dissertation shows how this political subjectivity is distinct from its imagination as either a politico-juridical category obtaining to a rights-bearing subject, the 'infantile' citizen-subject consolidated by the Indian nation-state, or the models of the militant Hindu citizenship mobilized by the Hindu Right.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Allen, Richard
Commitee: Bhaskar, Ira, Kahana, Jonathan, Rajagopal, Arvind, Sturken, Marita
School: New York University
Department: Cinema Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, Film studies
Keywords: Documentary film studies, Film studies, Hindu nationalism, History, India, Indian cinema, Sectarian violence, South Asian studies
Publication Number: 3557003
ISBN: 978-1-267-99581-0
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