[ACLA seminar] New Perspectives on the Indian New Wave: Fifty Years On

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Usha Iyer/Stanford University
contact email: 

Call for Abstracts

ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) 2020

Conference Dates: March 19th-22nd 2020, Chicago

Abstract submission deadline: Sept 23, 2019 (9 a.m. EST)


New Perspectives on the Indian New Wave: Fifty Years On


Organizers: Manishita Dass (Royal Holloway, University of London) & Usha Iyer (Stanford University)


Our seminar revisits an extraordinary but neglected moment in Indian film history and the history of global art cinema, extending from 1969 to the 1980s, when a constellation of alternative film practices emerged at the intersection of state interventions, oppositional politics, and a range of regional, national, and transnational influences and exchanges. This upsurge in filmmaking outside mainstream cinemas across India was facilitated by a government initiative to fund low-budget, offbeat films by newcomers, and dubbed the “Indian New Wave.”


The films associated with this label were diverse in terms of language, politics, stylistic range, and thematic concerns, and ranged from realist depictions of everyday life to modernist experiments with film form. However, the New Wave filmmakers shared a distrust of commercial cinema's values, themes, and styles, as well as a vision of cinema as art and social/political critique, a vision colored by the internationalist impulses of the Indian film society movement and the volatile political context of the 1960s-70s. While the withdrawal of government funding and problems of distribution and exhibition led to the waning of the New Wave by the mid-1980s, its aesthetic and political impact extends beyond its lifetime and calls for a re-assessment, as well as a re-consideration of the categories of art and political cinema from Indian vantage points.


Moving beyond purely auteurist approaches and ideological critiques of statist agendas, this seminar opens up other lines of inquiry to trace the New Wave’s cultural, political, and aesthetic genealogies, impulses, and legacies. Our goals are twofold: 1) to explore the film culture of the New Wave, comprising not only films but also the cultural matrix (shaped by institutions, discourses, political debates, and intermedial traffic) within which the films were made, circulated, and remembered/forgotten; 2) to reanimate discussions of Indian art cinema, consider its relationship to Third Cinema and European art cinema, and to disrupt and expand Eurocentric understandings of art and political cinema.


Possible areas of exploration include but are not limited to:

  • Genealogies of the Indian New Wave (henceforth INW)
  • Intermedial contexts (theatre, literature, painting, music, TV etc.)
  • Framing discourses (e.g., cinephilia/left politics/regional identities/discourses about “good cinema”)
  • New approaches to the state-cinema relationship
  • Internationalist impulses/networks/connections
  • The pleasures of the INW (performance/music/mise-en-scène, etc.)
  • The gender, class, and caste politics of the INW
  • Neglected filmmakers and regional film cultures
  • Afterlives of the INW: contemporary lines of influence; erasure of legacies; archival and historiographic challenges/imperatives
  • Teaching the INW: pedagogical practices, challenges, and gains
  • The role of educational and cultural institutions (FTII, NSD etc.)

Please contact Manishita (Manishita.Dass@rhul.ac.uk) and Usha  (ushaiyer@stanford.edu) with any questions or ideas for papers, and feel free to pass this information along to colleagues or students whose research relates to this topic.

More about ACLA seminars

Format: For those who haven't yet attended an ACLA conference, ACLA follows a distinctive format, where each seminar meets for two hours a day for 2-3 consecutive days of the conference. A two-day seminar could have between 6-9 papers; a three-day seminar between 10 and 13. This allows for 15-20 minute presentations, with plenty of time for discussion, and an opportunity for engaging ideas more deeply over several days.

Submission Process/Timeline:

1)     August 31 – Sept 23 (9 a.m. EST): Please submit your individual paper abstract (1500 characters, spaces included) via the ACLA portal (https://www.acla.org/annual-meeting).

2)     Sep 30 (9 a.m. EST): Deadline for seminar organizers to select papers and submit a complete seminar to the ACLA.

3)     Nov 1st: (on or around): ACLA will notify seminar organizers of acceptance or rejection.

NOTE: You need a login/account (i.e. registered with ACLA), but you don’t have to be a member to submit a proposal. It is only after the seminar proposal has been accepted that the ACLA requires you to join the organization.