Indian cinema and the Marginals: dominance, control, and resistance through popular culture

deadline for submissions: 
March 7, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Roshni Sengupta/Jagiellonian University in Krakow
contact email: 

Book editor: Roshni Sengupta

Both “culture” and “people” are largely undefined and inherently diverse forms, susceptible to malleability and appropriation to suit different agendas. Considering popular culture as a field of struggle leads us to a distinction between popular forms of control as well as participation. Popular culture therefore remains tied to questions of representation, enactment, regulation and control. Reading the form requires the deployment of modes such as symbols and codes (semiotics), apparatus of production (political economy approach), audience and consumer response as well as through studies of the social life of cultural forms and their political frames.

Popular culture, Stuart Hall argues, “looks, in any particular period, at those forms and activities which have their roots in the social and material conditions of particular classes; which have been embodied in popular traditions and practices.” The field of such forms and activities – the public domain within which such forms operate that is – is permanently struggling to accommodate opposite forces of containment and resistance. This happens because such cultural forms are permanently involved in a continuous and necessarily uneven and unequal struggle with the dominant culture that constantly tries to disorganize and reorganize popular culture; to enclose and confine its definitions and forms within a more inclusive range of dominant forms.

One of the most influential popular cultural forms – Indian cinema – has remained a site for the most intense engagements and debates around marginalized caste groups and communities, more recently emerging as a cultural sphere that provides space and scope for the representation of renegotiated marginal identities. Examples from Hindi cinema include New Wave presentations such as Masaan, Aligarh, Peepli Live, and so on while Kaala and Asuran (Tamil) exemplify the shifting focus of Indian cinema. While the cinematic New Wave remains the major metaverse for the representation of the marginals in Hindi cinema, the recent massive popularity of films like Pushpa (Telugu) underscores the immanence of a narrative in Southern cinema that breaks pan-Indian taboos of commensality (meat eating, interdining) and foregrounds a popular narrative around marginalized caste and class groups gaining the upper hand in an intense wave of social restructuring.

It is in this context that the volume seeks to engage with scholarly works around but not confined to the following themes:             

  • Indian cinema as popular culture – cinema as a field of struggle (as well as of presentation/representation)
  • Indian cinema and contest over representation of the marginalized
  • Indian cinema and the politics of representation – access, funding, discrimination: who is represented? Who can inhabit the frame of representation? Who is excluded?
  • Negotiations of power in Indian cinema – social, economic, political
  • Indian cinema as a form of ‘public culture’
  • The subaltern imaginary in Indian cinema
  • Dalit representation in Indian cinema

The proposed edited book seeks to unpack the notion of ‘marginality’ by examining cinematic representation in popular Indian cinema. In doing so, it would attempt to locate excluded, marginalized, and minority communities and groups (religious, caste, sexual and gender etc.) within the larger discursive sphere of media as a canvas of dominance and resistance. Not restricting the frame for reference to Hindi cinema alone, the volume seeks scholarly interventions on Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Marathi cinema particularly and other language cinemas in India.   

As an anthology of scholarly articles, the book would be of interest to scholars and students of media, cinema, politics, sociology and anthropology as well as practitioners, filmmakers and writers. The book will be published by a leading international publisher.  

Interested scholars are invited to submit 250-word abstracts (including full author affiliations) by 7 March 2022 (to rosh.sengupta@gmail.com) followed by 8000-9000-word papers (including references but excluding notes). The submission date for full papers will be communicated after selection of abstracts.

About Book Editor

Roshni Sengupta is Assistant Professor, Institute of Intercultural Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She has been Assistant Professor at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University, Netherlands and Fellow of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden. Among her published work is the monograph Reading the Muslim on Celluloid: Bollywood, Representation and Politics (Primus Books, 2020), and the co-edited volumes Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Gender and Culture in Contemporary Literature, edited by Parul Yadav, Roshni Sengupta, and Chandni Sengupta (Authors Press, 2021), and Film, Media and Representation in Postcolonial South Asia: Beyond Partition, edited by Nukhbah Taj Langah and Roshni Sengupta (Routledge, 2021). Her co-edited volume Narratives of Loss and Longing: literary developments in postcolonial South Asia with Nukhbah Taj Langah is forthcoming from Routledge in 2022, while she is currently working on a volume on visual politics of contemporary Bengali cinema and a monograph on the cultural processes of homemaking among the Indo-Caribbean diaspora in the Netherlands. Roshni has published several book chapters and peer-reviewed articles with indexed journals and books published by Taylor and Francis, Brill, Sage etc.     Contact details:Email: rosh.sengupta@gmail.com