Locating Cultural Change - Theory, Method, Process.Edited by Partha Pratim Basu and Ipshita Chanda, Pages 279 (hard bound), Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2011, Rs. 795.
The book is a collection of essays that takes instances from Hindi films, language press, club culture, translation industry, advertisement, and television serials to show the change in the local cultural process. It brings about various aspects of the cultural process in the context of diverse topics that portray these processes. The book brings in the element of “local” which is an “idea” rather than a “location”.
In the first chapter, Abhijit Roy maps the vision of the “modern” in contemporary television serials to draw attention to the way the “post-colonial” negotiates the “global”. Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin and the Makeover of Indian Soaps is a critical assessment of the Indian tele-soaps mostly stressed the “residual” nature of India’s feudal order to show how certain values and rituals have sustained their antagonistic position. The chapter tries to bring out the inspiration drawn from Latin American television soap for Indian programming. It generates how images and narratives transcend across boundaries. It brings out the popular concept of using a protagonist who could relate with the audience and hence drive the soaps’ popularity.
The case-study also looks into the makeover that Jassi underwent to be able to succeed in a corporate world. The chapter offers considerable analysis on how the serial Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, paved the way for a different style of programming. The tele-soap was a remake of a Columbian soap Betty, La Fea. It offers a societal look of the middle-class girl who makes it big in the corporate world and the conflicts between the middle-class and the high society. It also does a comparative analysis that shows that, though the treatment of the story of soap is different between Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the underlining meaning is that it still portrays the institutions of patriarchy such as family. Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin proved to be successful and became a highly marketed brand in itself. It was used a showcase for the channel SET. Also popular brands were strategically placed in the narrative as a means of promotional activity.
The second chapter, Foreign Babies/ Indian Make: Outsourcing Reproduction in the Age of Globalisation, by Modhumita Roy, examines the intersection of fertility technologies and the global outsourcing of reproductive labour to the less developed world. It looks into the commoditisation of the women’s womb and how it appears normal to women who are fighting poverty. The idea of lending womb or outsourcing the womb deals with social, moral and legal norms. It looks into the ideology of genetic inheritance which again correlates with the ideologies of race, ethnicity, class, and caste. It effectively brings out the activity of outsourcing reproduction in the age of globalisation.
The essay brings out stark figures as to why India is being considered as a fertility tourism capital as compared to the West. It also brings out the issue of control of surrogate mothers, and this is the reason why couples turn to India for commercial surrogacy. She asserts: “The commoditisation of pregnancies or ‘womb renting’ is a direct progeny of ‘what passes under the euphemisms of liberalization or globalisation which is reversing the trajectory of economic development on which the Indian state was initially based in the formative years of the Republic.”
Manas Ghosh’s chapter, Nationalism, Television and Indian Cricket in Global Mediascape: Where has the Local Gone?, talks about the commercialisation of cricket and how it forms a source of entertainment in India. This chapter delves deep into the historical relevance it has for cricket enthusiasts and how, over the years, it has acquired an iconic status. It looks at cricket as a marketable commodity and how cricketers have appeared in endorsements to sell brands and how they’ve also become icons to the millions of people who love the game. It delves into the history of media representation of cricket in India. It traces how the viewership of satellite television in India increased and which in turn also increased the viewership of sport programmes. The chapter also looks into the use of advertisement texts during the game telecast.
Bollywood and the Mumbai Underworld- Reading Satya in Retrospect, a chapter by Rajdeep Roy, traces the representation of the hero in Mumbai’s Underworld through Bollywood films. In his discussion, he lays out how Mumbai’s underworld has been clearly portrayed in the popular genre realistically: the way Mumbai has been central to communal disturbance which could be attributed to the terrorist ring that has always entrapped the city. The representation of the Mumbai underworld, through Satya, brings with it a narrative that shows a city in transition.
Local, national, global: these are three nuances that play an important role in translation of an Indian text. The chapter, Translating India Today: Local Cultures, Global Ambitions and Colonial Hangovers, focuses on English translations of Bangla literature. It allows the globalised world to look at Indian literature that could be marketed. It investigates the “motivations, dynamics, and problems” of translating Indian literature into English. Sayantan Dasgupta does an extensive study of the works in Bengali translated stories and examines how many of the translators fail to bring out the real meaning in the texts. The writer emphasises that the trend of not clearly translating the texts reinforces the conviction for theorising the English literature and it is necessary to find out the clarity before translating a work as a cross-cultural process. This chapter clearly brings out how the translations at times become unreadable or completely lack meaning mainly because there is inconsistency in the approach to translation. A proper translation should look into the use of language, culture-specific markers, and perceived target readership.
Om Shanti Om, a Farah Khan 2007 film, becomes a subject of cultural studies in this chapter written by Ipshita Chandra. The author uses classical Sanskrit aesthetics theory to explain the film. This chapter brings forth the local constructed through inter-textual elements in the film. The film has been set in the 1970s and the 1980s and shows how re-interpretation of the local through cinema adds to the depth of the movie by adding location of habits of viewership and interpretation. The chapter delves into the reality of mass India that is embedded in the world created on celluloid.
The case study of Om Shanti Om provides us an insight to an audience who is able to put the pieces together when shown a set of elements in the films. The film’s representation of the relationship between the fan and the star is clearly visible in the breakdown of the scenes where the character Omi has a conversation with the poster of the heroine he admires. The writer says that to understand a movie, it is necessary to know the mechanics of audience reception, an understanding of the genre and theme grounded in history.
A look at the portrayal of minorities in West Bengal newspapers (Anandabazar Patrika and Bartaman) shows the way in which the minority rights have been portrayed and in turn which led to significant events in history. The chapter by Partha Pratim Basu, Minority Rights in India: A View from the Regional Press, traces the coverage of momentous events: the Shah Bano controversy (1980s), the riots sparked off by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and the carnage in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra holocaust in 2002, in the two Bengali dailies.
These incidents had significant bearing on the Muslims of India. The analysis brings out the multiple threats the minorities were exposed to during the post-Babri demolition and the Gujarat riots. The newspapers captured the angst suffered by the minorities during the course of the event and after.
Dalia Chakraborty looks at the change in the medical advertisements that appeared in the 19th century and the ones that appear now in Medical Advertisement: An Embodiment of Culture. The culture interface with commerce shows how the marketing strategies of the advertisers have changed since the 19th century. It now ranges from stressing on the client’s health, strength, etc., to citing testimonials by public figures or announcement of attractive figures. It also lays down a point on how medical advertisement “encroaches upon the patient-physician relationship”.
Kolkata’s rich colonial heritage has been traced in this chapter called Just for Fun: Changing Notions of Social Forms of Leisure. The change in the clubs over the years since the British colonial rule has been vividly sketched to show the club culture and how it now caters to the business community at large. The chapter considers the reinvention of Kolkata’s club culture in the wake of the emergence of a global culture in city life. It is clearly shown that clubs for “leisure” were seen as a place in which one could relax, but now it is a different ball game all together. It is now a place that provides just another service, and members buy the package that suits them the best.
The book represents a collection of well-researched case studies that explain the cultural trends in India. The process of “formation, reformation through production, reception, use, and reproduction” of cultural process through texts, i.e. the case in point in the book, has been effectively provided by the authors of each of the chapters. The chapters attempt to study cultural process and have been clearly explained with case studies.