Popular Culture in South Asia

deadline for submissions: 
December 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Raj Thakur, Central University of Jammu
contact email: 

Popular Culture in South Asian Context

(Edited Volume)

Call for Papers



Popular Culture as a field of intellectual inquiry and experience has witnessed expansion, shift and critique. Instead of reducing it to a tight conceptual grid or a taxonomic template, it must be understood as a protean phenomenon. The creative and disruptive tension between the terms ‘popular’ and ‘culture’ in South Asian context is marked by its polyphonic popular vis-a vis cultural textualities. Disentangling the popular within South Asian context entails a complex intra, inter-cultural variations making it extremely ‘layered’ and ‘palimpsestic’ entity. Its popular imaginaries run across regional, religious, linguistic and ethnic contours. Popular culture and its institutionalized disciplinary take offs have been tethered to the Frankfurt and Birmingham school. Signposting the discipline, however, in South Asian context needs to be envisioned beyond the ‘cultural turn’ in the western Marxist model. The ‘elite’, ‘popular’, ‘ordinary’, ‘mass’ are no secure categories here. Moreover, what is inextricably tied to the community, people’s culture or folk, the ground zero of culture is conflated with popular mass mediated forms and texts of cultural consumption, an offshoot of industrial society within the institutionalized framework. In contrast, the ground zero of culture is suspicious of any totalising, universal expressions.

There are no easy theoretical take away between high and low brow popular in the Indian context. The scale of variations in terms of rituals, dialects, cult, folk traditions are dense and manifold. From traditional Marathi Tamasha and Koodiayattam of Kerela to Ragini in Haryana to Bhand Pather in Kashmir, rooted in classical and devotional, they are all laced in identity politics. The eclectic and open modes defy any bracketed and prescriptive textual generic equivalents of comedy, wit and humour. Even in the staged popular laughter shows and stand up comedy, moments of native fling in a metropolitian setting fails to offer colloquial subcultural performative moment as they do so in the folk forms naqqal and nautanki. As polemic and personal go hand in hand, popular here punctures the austerity, a potent normative economy. Indian popular, though, layered in its own native homeostasis and indigenous imaginaries, its, varied structures of feeling in production, reception and reproduction make it a constant processual entity. While navigating tradition and modernity, uncanny transitions flow from classic to folk to the national- popular to mass. They subvert, invert and convert with great alacrity and ease. Interestingly, the binding of ‘knowing’ to ‘seeing’, the root metaphor of Western thought is contrary to sensory, visual, somaesthetics and corpothetics of visual and darshanic in the Indian subcontinent.

Even in the varied contemporary performative narrative models of storytelling and poetry, the problematic of popular uniformity abounds. If there is a surge in slam poetry, then there is popular anti-caste Dalit Shahiri and Chamar pop in the fray. Likewise, cringe pop shakes the cultural capital of pop genre, hitherto, an exclusive preserve of the elites and aspirational middle class. Likewise, in the post- globalised framework, the new media vectors and its affect industry makes it much more diffused. The ensuing digital popular platforms via smart phone -Tiktok , Youtube, fashion and food apps and OTT streaming zones like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hotstar calls for a renewed assessment of new and post media ecology and its participatory logic. The rightly critiqued split of high, mass and popular frames of culture have no easy transitions here. They traverse in highly disparate realms which render the binary as an obsolete one. The Bollywood films, song and dance themes cuts through these binaries with gay abandon. Similarly, the leisure economy of sporting leagues like Premier League, Pro Wrestling League, Pakistan Super league, Bangladesh Premier League employ spectacular neoliberal hybrid registers. A sport like cricket’s uncanny acculturation in India is best exemplified by Ashis Nandy, quipping, “cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British”. However, it is the same Bollywood and cricket league that also operates in and mobilizes privileged sectors of the Indian society.

Writing cultural history through popular textualities is premised on critiquing the canonical, civilizational and national-popular problematic as signifying, historical and material practices. As Lynn Hunt invokes, “the more cultural historical studies become the more historical cultural studies become”. Popular, thus, in South Asian context, invites a complicated figuring, social and material condition of the marginalised, its forms and practices. The category of popular persists but the ways in which it relates to everyday lives, struggles and labour of different castes, classes and gender, alters the content of the category. Much to the spirit of quissa tradition of telling and re-telling, popular too awaits its retelling in various avatars.

While understanding that cultural productions have distinctiveness based on their dynamic location within the world-system, the project sets out to endow cosmopolitan tracts of South Asian popular through the progressive case of what Kwame Anthony Appiah terms as “contamination”. Capturing the spirit of popular promiscuities will insists on the constitutive role of culture from majestic to mundane, spectacular to banal, sacred to profane , classic to folk , popular to mass, play to sport, not as an easy transformative marker or periodisation, but a zone of constant attrition with everyday and dominant. The model envisaged would be generative than a prescriptive one, attuning to the political possibility in these populist times.

We invite theoretically informed and empirically grounded manuscripts addressing popular as a text, context, and practice for the edited book volume under the rubric of South Asian Popular Culture. The edited volume will be supported and published by Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.


Important Dates:


Deadline for abstracts: September 25, 2022 

Abstracts should be around 400 words long and should be sent to both Corresponding editors, Akshaya Kumar(akshayakumarg@gmail.com) and Raj Thakur (raj.eng@cujammu.ac.in ), no later than September 25, 2022. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the guest editors.

Notification of acceptance:  September 30, 2022

Submission of full manuscripts: December 31, 2022


Guidelines for Full paper submission


  • Word limit: Articles or should be within 6000 – 7,000 words.
  • Title: 12-point Times New Roman
    • Authors’ names: (12-point Times New Roman), Designations, affiliation/address, telephone number and email id (10-point Times New Roman)
    • Content: 12 Font Size (Times New Roman style)
    • Spacing: 1.15 line spacing
    • Document types allowed: Word Document only (.doc or .docx)
    • Bibliography/Works Cited: Latest MLA or APA styles




Corresponding Editor (s):


Prof. Akshaya Kumar is currently a Chair Professor, Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. India. Having more than three decades of post graduate teaching and research experience, his widespread literary and critical scholarship extends to the field(s) of Comparative Indian literature, Translation Studies, Critical Theory and Cultural Studies. He has extensively published in journals like South Asian Review, Indian Literature and Translation Today. Major books to his credit include, Poetry, Politics and Culture: Indian Texts and Contexts (Routledge: Delhi, New York and London, 2009).[The book was recognized by World Literature Today as one among 60 “essential readings” on Indian Writings since 1947 in its special issue on Writing from Modern India, Nov. 2010] https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2010/november/60-essential-english-language-works-modern-indian-literature, A.K. Ramanujan: In Profile and Fragment (Rawat: Delhi and Jaipur, 2004). His edited volumes include Cultural Studies in India: Essays on History, Politics & Literature, eds., Rana Nayar, Pushpinder Syal & Akshaya Kumar(Routledge: New Delhi, New York and London, 2016), Dialogues Across Languages: Theory & Practice of Translation in India, eds., Pushpinder Syal, Rana Nayar & Akshaya Kumar (Panjab University Publication Bureau: Chandigarh, 2016). Translated text to his credit include, Gau-Dhuli Vela: Punjabi Translations of Sudeep Sen’s English Poems (Editor and Co-translator), Autumn Press, Patiala, 2021. His ongoing project, A Critical History of Panjabi Literature is commissioned by Orient Blackswan.

Email: akshayakumarg@gmail.com




Raj Thakur, PhD. is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Central University of Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir, India. He earned his doctoral thesis (2017) from the Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab Univeristy Chandigarh, India exploring the cultural economy of leisure and cricket with specific focus on Indian Premier League (IPL). He has published in the journals like South Asian Popular Culture (Routledge, 2021) and contributed to the edited volume on Cultural Studies in India: Essays on History, Politics & Literature, (Routledge, Delhi, New York and London 2016). His area of interest includes cultural studies, critical theory, popular culture and sports studies.

Email: raj.eng@cujammu.ac.in