Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Consuming Modernity

Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World

Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Consuming Modernity
    Book Description:

    Illustrates that what is distinctive of any particular society is not the fact of its modernity, but rather its own unique debates about modernity. Behind the embattled arena of culture in India, for example, lie particular social and political interests such as the growing middle class; the entrepreneurs and commercial institutions; and the state. The contributors address the roles of these various intertwined interests in the making of India's public culture, each examining different sites of consumption. The sites they explore include cinema, radio, cricket, restaurants, and tourism. Consuming Modernity also makes clear the differences among public, mass, and popular culture. Contributors include Arjun Appadurai, Frank F. Conlon, Sara Dickey, Paul Greenough, David Lelyveld, Barbara N. Ramusack, Rosie Thomas, and Phillip B. Zarrilli.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8532-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Carol A. Breckenridge
  4. CHAPTER ONE Public Modernity in India
    (pp. 1-20)

    This is not a book for those who believe that Americanization or commodification or McDonald’s (or some variation of all these) is seducing the world into sameness and creating a world of little Americas, unless they are prepared to change their minds. Neither is this a book for those die-hard adherents of modernization theory who believe that modernity is a single destination to which all lines of developmental traffic lead, and that all that matters is who gets there first and how high the price of their journey. Our assumption is that modernity is today a global experience (even if...

  5. Part I. The Historical Past

    • CHAPTER TWO Playing with Modernity: The Decolonization of Indian Cricket
      (pp. 23-48)

      For the ex-colony, decolonization is a dialogue with the colonial past, and not a simple dismantling of colonial habits and modes of life. Nowhere are the complexities and ambiguities of this dialogue more evident than in the vicissitudes of cricket in countries that were once part of the British Empire. In the Indian case, the cultural aspects of decolonization deeply affect every domain of public life, from language and the arts to ideas about political representation and economic justice. In every major public debate in contemporary India, one underlying strand is always the question of what to do with the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Upon the Subdominant: Administering Music on All-India Radio
      (pp. 49-65)

      It is characteristic of cultural imperialism to confuse levels of analysis by claiming universal validity for what is limited to particular historical contexts. “The subdominant” is a technical term in the European musical system that was prevalent during the period of British rule in India. European musical theory from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth construed pitch in terms of “natural” harmonic overtones; emerging into progressions of chords, cadences, themes, and movements, the totality of a musical composition was an exposition of tension, release, and resolution. While E. M. Forster, bewildered by his experience of Indian music for...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Indian Princes as Fantasy: Palace Hotels, Palace Museums, and Palace on Wheels
      (pp. 66-89)

      India has long been the destination of intrepid travelers and writers who sought to explore worlds and cultures different from their own. From at least the Hellenic period (witness the account of Herodotus), people from Western Asia and Europe have portrayed India as exotic and other. In subsequent centuries travelers to India from Western Asia, East Asia, and eventually Europe have written extensively about what they saw in India, and their accounts have been the object of scholarly attention. In a highly influential analysis, Edward Said has given some attention to the role of nineteenthcentury English and French sojourners to...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Dining Out in Bombay
      (pp. 90-128)

      Although many Indian and foreign observers might regard India as one of those world societies that may be best described as “traditional,” in fact India has developed one or more modern sectors that are in some ways coextensive with those of the West while retaining a distinctively Indian flavor.¹ Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge, concerned that students of Indian culture come to terms with this development, have argued that this process in contemporary India may be best understood within a distinctive new domain of cosmopolitan “public culture.” They propose that characteristic institutions of this public culture (cinema, sport, tourism, museums,...

  6. Part II. The Historical Present

    • CHAPTER SIX Consuming Utopia: Film Watching in Tamil Nadu
      (pp. 131-156)

      First-time visitors to South Indian towns and cities are often struck by the overwhelming presence of cinema.¹ What the visitor sees is matched by what South Indians do: more movies are produced and watched per capita in South India than almost anywhere else in the world.² Movies not only are watched, they also constitute a pervasive visual and aural presence outside of the theater. Huge, dazzling posters line the main streets, and smaller posters are slapped onto spare wall space. Movie songs blare from horn speakers and cassette players at weddings, puberty rites, and temple and shrine festivals. Coffee stalls...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Melodrama and the Negotiation of Morality in Mainstream Hindi Film
      (pp. 157-182)

      Mother is in peril, threatened by a villain who is—unbeknown to him—her own lost son, kidnapped as a child and brought up by villains. He has bound her, gagged her, and hung her from a tree. Should the barrel at her feet begin to roll, she will inevitably be strangled by the rope around her neck. Moreover, the barrel is full of petrol, the hillside is strewn with straw, and the villain has a flaming torch . . .

      It is a predictably uncomfortable moment of Hindi cinema: the moral universe is grossly violated and the disorder apparently...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Repositioning the Body, Practice, Power, and Self in an Indian Martial Art
      (pp. 183-215)

      In mid-January 1984, after seven months of field research and training in Kerala, India, on the region’s martial/medical art,kalarippayattu,¹ and a brief two-week stopover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to visit Ustaz Haji Hamzah Haji Abu’s International Kalari-Payat Dynamic Self-Defence Institute,² I returned home to Madison, Wisconsin, to receive a copy of the January 11, 1984, issue ofNew Thrillforwarded to me by my Malaysian host.New Thrillis a twice-weekly English-language tabloid published in Kuala Lumpur, which, according to its subtitle, “prob[es] the unknown, the mysterious and the exciting” for its presumably young and primarily male Malaysian readership....

    • CHAPTER NINE Nation, Economy, and Tradition Displayed: The Indian Crafts Museum, New Delhi
      (pp. 216-248)

      Artisans—household-based hand manufacturers of useful and decorative commodities for domestic, ritual, and tourist consumption—make up only a small proportion of India’s workforce, but the proportion has been steady for twenty years, and it is likely that India has more artisans today than any other nation in the world.¹ A huge rural demand for articles of everyday utility is met by potters, smiths, weavers, and dozens of other artists, while the mostly urban middle and upper classes require at least a sprinkling of handmade artifacts as an expression of their nationalist-modernist taste. Vigorous marketing has made handmade Indian goods,...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 249-250)
  8. Index
    (pp. 251-261)