Archive for the ‘Bollywood’ Category

51a1QxYNRiL._SY445_

Review of

Tejaswini Ganti, Producing Bollywood: Inside the Contemporary Hindi Film Industry. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

In Producing Bollywood, Tejaswini Ganti argues that Hindi cinema has gone through a process of ‘gentrification’ from 1996 to the present day. Gentrification in this media context is a “manifestation of the film industry’s quest to manage unpredictability in the arena of film consumption, the process of rationalization is its counterpart, addressing uncertainty in the production process” (11). Overall, her research shows that a certain kind of class war has been conducted through the codes, exhibition and distribution practices, and financial and organizational infrastructure of Hindi cinema. The corporatization of Bollywood has since around 2000 introduced economies of scale, allowing for the development of multiple revenue streams, and a restructuring and rationalizing of the work cultures throughout the industry (264). Through a corporate-style risk management buttressed by the infusion of “previously unheard of amounts of capital into the Hindi film industry, making available consistent finance, so that the risk of a film not being completed has decreased drastically” (11), an abject figure of exclusion has been produced, policed, and quarantined through the gentrification of Hindi cinema. This mass figure of abjection is that of the atavistic, sensation-driven, illiterate Bihari or North and East Indian peasant. His (and it is definitely a paan-chewing, ma-bahen [mother-sister] swearing, boisterous adult male that is the vehicle of this stereotype—think Arshad Warsi in Ishqiya [2010]) Other is the newly globalized consumer-citizen whose brand-frenzy expends itself every weekend in those mushrooming, securitized playgrounds for the rich and aspirational, the Indian malltiplex. As Ganti writes, “the gentrification of Hindi cinema is part of a broader socio-historical conjuncture where urban middle classes are celebrated in state and media discourses as the main agents, as well as markers of modernity and development in India” (17). In that sense, we should mark that the abjection of the multitude (as the young Marx might have said)* concerns not merely discourses and stereotypes of the illiterate peasant, but more crucially the very biopolitics of filmic populations in India today.

One of my interests in this book is the limits and possibilities of Ganti’s method. She claims to be interested in “practice, experience, meaning-making, and social life,” and through this multi-focused lens she examines filmmaking and filmmakers rather than specific films, per se. Departing from the clichéd notion of “films as texts” Ganti regards them “as social and discursive object that come to possess their meaning through practice and social life, which leads me to concentrate on how filmmakers interpret, discuss, and assign social as well as cultural significance to particular films” (21). In other words, she turns the filmwallas own words (and there are a lot of them given that her fieldwork extended from 1996-2010: “producers, directors, actors and actresses, writers, distributors, exhibitors—and those who shape the discourse about films, filmmaking, and filmmakers—journalists” [25]) into her interpretative text. What method is behind this sleight of hand? Basically, Ganti operates explicitly through a kind of post-deconstructionist discourse analysis of the social construction or mediation of meaning, which at times means little other than ideology critique (43).

Yet there is something else operating in her text, which, without deconstructing it per se, belies this explicit commitment to a banal social constructivism. We might call it a kind of media materialism, or media assemblage analysis, whose primary force is not critique but ontologies of becoming through organizational and aesthetic mutations in media form. Ganti writes, “Sippy’s reflexivity about this period [late 1980s and early 1990s], along with his own representation of his internalization of the constraints imposed by the changing technological and economic landscape for filmmaking, is an example of how the subjectivity of a commercial filmmaker is forged in concert with figures of the imagined audience, mediated through box office returns and new technologies of distribution such as video” (86-7). Mediations notwithstanding, this complex understanding of the interplay and imbrication between filmmakers’ subjectivities and the material world runs throughout her analyses and makes the book well-worth reading. For another example, during the course of her analysis of the “horrible” 1980s, Ganti notes that the peculiarly bad aesthetic of that decade had less to do with the influence of South Indian cinema and “more to do with the introduction of videocassette technology and its concomitant problems of video piracy and changes in the patterns of film consumption” (82). Ganti’s consistent attention to the materiality of the “altered media landscape” that Hindi filmmakers operate in today includes the presence of satellite television and new digital media (93). This media materialism draws Ganti on to analyzing the qualitative shifts from the late 1990’s onward, in the viewing experience for Indian film audiences (definitely one of the strongest aspects of this book): “middle and upper classes, who were seeing all of the films on video anyway. With the steep increase in ticket rates, the ‘front-benchers’—who according to the press were ‘extending to the dress-gallery’ by the early ‘90s—had been priced out of these areas and put firmly back in their place in the cinema hall; therefore, the celebrated ‘return’ of audiences to theatres in the mid-199s was really about reinforcing social hierarchies and re-inscribing social distance into spatial distance with the public space of the cinema hall” (97).

One of Ganti’s most interesting methodological moves is her use of a fictionalized sketch of a routine day on a film set—common practice in cultural anthropology, of course. Yet through it she is able in an exemplary way to tease out the multiple layers of the “decentralized and fragmented nature of filmmaking in India,” showing the relative ease with which individuals with access to capital can become filmmakers (this was the case until the late-1990s, it is unclear if that is true any longer, given new global standards of financing, accounting, marketing, and management throughout the Indian film industry—162), even as she shows how kinship relationships and personalized social networks often have the effect of both granting an immediacy to interactions and serving as a form of gatekeeping throughout the industry (176). Crucial to this process of teasing out the multiple, even haphazard nature of Bollywood, and what makes her analysis at times quite compelling, is the renewed significance of the film distributor, especially with the rise of the Overseas Territory as the most lucrative distribution domains, as well as the continued centrality of male stars to the production process (208).

The gentrification of Bollywood has affected its erstwhile shady financial management. So-called black money from various organized crime schemes has been central to Hindi film production at least since the 1950s if not earlier, and gained in importance and notoriety throughout the 80s and early 90s; circuits of racketeering were one of the few ways that producers and ‘proposal makers’ could access enough cash to even begin thinking of making a film. Ganti notes that black money refers to “unreported, untaxed income that could be generated from legal enterprises, the intensely cash-based nature of the financial dealings of the film industry until the early 2000s made it possible for the world of organised crime to be involved with filmmaking. References to the underworld-film industry ‘nexus’…began in the late 1980s” (181). The gentrification of Bollywood has also meant that black money in Bollywood has diminished in quantity, and probably also changed its processes within the film industry (given the grave state of banking worldwide and the widespread prevalence of banking fraud, are all the finances now simply grey?).

Probably the best chapters of this rather long, at times repetitive book, is Ganti’s turn to a kind of political economy of film production. There she usefully delineates the three main types of distribution arrangements common in the Hindi film industry. The ‘MG’ or minimum guarantee system, the most common, enables the distributor to bid for and guarantee the producer a specific sum that is disbursed in instalments from the onset of production. In the commission system, distributors bear the least risk because the most they may invest in a film are in its publicity and print costs; distributors in this system deduct between 25 and 50 percent of box-office receipts as a commission and remit the rest to the producer. In an outright sale scenario, distributors pay producers for the right to distribute their films for a given time period, during which all expenses incurred and all income earned are solely the distributors’. The MG auction system for allocating films often produces a kind of “winner’s curse”: “the distributor who wins the rights has the highest chance of having overestimated what a film will gross and therefore has the highest chance for a flop. As the buyers of films, distributors occupy the structural position of consumers—albeit a specialized one—which the filmmaking process, but they are rarely implicated in the wide ranging discussions about the commercial outcome of a film carried out in the film industry, the media, and among viewers. Instead, box-office performance is discussed by filmmakers in terms of audience composition, tastes, and desires. Hits and flops are interpreted and represented as indices of audience subjectivities rather than of distributors’ commercial predictions” (190-91). There is then a kind of objective illusion, as Deleuze might say, operating within the film industry: the reified, actual, and/or proleptic tastes of segmented audiences are assumed to be the driving force of filmic value, when in its material processes the forms of value emergent from such modalities as distributors’ auctions or the emergent trade in distribution rights (277) and their relative importance remain covered over by the fetish of class/mass taste. This results in what Ganti usefully calls an erasure of the economic, which means basically “the absence of attention to exhibition conditions (decrepit cinemas, not enough cinemas), regional economic variation, state taxation, diverse rates of admission, and the role of distributors’ pricing decisions” (313).

Another important contribution Ganti’s research makes to the burgeoning field of South Asian film and media is the at times stark, not to say binaristic contrast that filmwallas make between the Indian and Hollywood systems of film production. Although she doesn’t dwell at any length on this fact, yet one of the major differences in the organizational form of the two industries is the relatively higher degree of effective unionization of Hollywood workers, and the involvement of unions in most labor struggles around work time, benefits, and working conditions. This last, as Ganti shows, is a site of constant contestation in the Hindi film industry, and given the relative low-level of unionization in this industry, trying to get the film industry management, government, and power brokers to attend to the everyday working hazards (no toilets, interminable and ever changing working hours, physical violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault) for day laborers in the industry has been an uphill task to say the least (221). Other important differences between the two industries are in terms of the oral agreements of contracts and the lack of bound scripts (222-23). In short, for most Bollywood filmmakers Hollywood is “…more organized, more disciplined, more efficient, and more professional than the Hindi film industry” (223); more positively, Bollywood until around 2000 was best characterized by its “flexibility—by which I mean the ability to make impromptu decisions, the capacity to adapt to uncertainty, and a willingness to change the course of action—that is characteristic of Hindi filmmaking” (156). Layered onto these distinctions within the B/Hollywood opposition is the fact that, “rather than increasing, the total number of screens in India appears to be declining, as it has been for a number of years. According to statistics compiled by the Government of India’s Ministry of Statistics, the number of permanent cinema halls in India decreased approximately 27 percent between 1999 and 2009, from 9, 095 to 6,607. Of these, about 300 are multiplexes with a total of 900 screens, which leads to an estimated total of 7,207 screens for all of India in 2009—a 20 percent decrease in the number of screens from the previous decade” (71).

Then there is the submerged question of the Nation in Producing Bollywood. Ganti writes that Jawaharlal Nehru’s statements about film as basically operator of debauched sensation machines “have been a consistent feature of the discourse surrounding cinema in postcolonial India…Since Nehru, what has been operating in state discourses toward cinema, especially with respect to the relationship between entertainment and quality, is the ‘logic of deferrence’, where entertainment has been viewed as something that a postcolonial, ‘developing,’ nation-state like India cannot afford” (48, 51). In some sense the postcolonial pedagogical vocation for film has haunted Indian filmmaking until very recently. ‘In their very objectified and elaborated representations of Indianans,” as Ganti has it (63), Bollywood has explicated its codes, narratives, clichés, and sensory-motor circuits (images) in complex imbrication with the desires of national belonging. But what has happened to this secular socialist and paternalistic commitment to the ‘masses’?

One of the most consistent explanatory figures in Ganti’s analysis is what she terms the binary between masses and classes inhabiting the ambivalence at the heart of nationalist filmmaking. This binary opposition of the ‘masses/classes’ is the primary mode for filmmakers to make sense of the vastly diverse audiences for Hindi cinema, although for the past ten years it has become in a sense de-sedimented from its supposed fixity. For Ganti, the underlying hierarchy naturalized through this binary is that “the masses and classes are fundamentally different, and their tastes and world-views are completely incommensurable. Despite this incommensurability, Hindi filmmakers, for much of the industry’s history, strove to make films that would appeal across these divides” (35; see also 298). This binary is tied closely to the fate of nationalism within the Hindi film industry. Nehru’s statements about the pernicious effects of commercial cinema on the (supposedly ignorant) masses, went hand in hand with a pedagogical model for beneficial, socially relevant cinema. But is this the binary that social constructionism hunts for in the ambivalences of textuality? The Italian philosopher Lucio Colletti’s adaptation of Kant’s distinction between a dialectical contradiction and real opposition (Realrepugnanz; “a relation of mutual repulsion” [6])** is useful here. If in India “most state governments also stipulated that movie theaters could not be constructed near schools, colleges, places of worship, residential areas, and government offices,” (54) what was ontologized through this social and spatial differentiation was not a binary opposition but rather a material and multifarious process of producing a real opposition and biopolitical strategy between lower caste, working class film cultures and postcolonial national and now today globalized “middle class” values.

These processes of gentrification have an aesthetic correlate in film form. Indeed, since 2000 we can speak of something like a thoroughgoing morphogenesis of Bollywood film—in terms of codes, address, apparatus, exhibition, and organizational and financial structures, Hindi filmmaking has departed both from its own clichés and its own postcolonial socialist commitments (however paternalistic and narrowly nationalistic these were). Throughout its history right up to around 2000, filmmakers would “try to encode into their films what they [saw] as some shared cultural norms, common to everyone in India” (314).
Consider the stereotypical song-dance sequence, for instance: non-lip-synched songs continue to have a presence in most films today, however, now they frequently express the “psychological state of a character or the emotional tenor of a particular situation. As music’s narrative significance has diminished with the decrease of lip-synch songs in many contemporary Hindi films, it has arguably taken on an even greater commercial significance within the industry, for it is primarily created for marketing, promotion, and ancillary revenue purposes” (258). The gentrification of Bollywood has translated into a baleful (but nationally consistent) shift from mass inclusion to radical exclusion. Thus, in 1996 well-known director Aditya Chopra could celebrate a filmic vision of class inclusion: “You just realize that you’re making a film for people who are going to be different, and you have to try and thread them in some way, link all of them together. That is actually what Dilwale was—this belief that, even if they come from different classes, this guy might ride an auto-rickshaw and we might go in a Mercedes-Benz—but he’s also going to cry if his mother dies, he’s also going to react when his sister gets married. Okay, so what you need to do is get to the essence of being Indian and strike that chord that will somehow or the other have a place in everybody’s heart” (303). This has been entirely eroded in the subsequent decade of dot com booms and busts, service economies, call centres, and business operations outsourcing. As Ganti puts it, “While filmmakers earlier had located themselves along the class-axis of the masses/classes binary, they were clear that the bulk of their audience was on the mass side of the binary. Bhatt’s statements not only indicate a change in target audiences, but also reveal how changes in the Indian media landscape—his reference to satellite television and corporate production companies—have had an impact on filmmakers’ understandings of their audiences” (324-25). This then is finally the lasting contribution of Ganti’s fairly comprehensive study of Producing Bollywood in the form of a familiar filmi lament and political warning: the abjection of the masses will return to haunt the global ambitions of Bollywood.

NOTES
* Marx, “Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature – Doctoral Dissertation,” 118. Thanks Bue.

** Colletti writes: “So in real opposition too there is negation, annulment, but of a kind that is quite different from contradiction. Real opposites are not, as in contradiction, negatives in themselves and hence only the Negative of the other; on the contrary, they are both positive and real. In this instance, says Kant, ‘both the predicates A and B are affirmative.’ The negation which each exerts on the other consists only in the fact that they mutually annul their effects. Briefly, in a real opposition or relation of contrariety (Gegenverhältnis), the extremes are both positive, even when one of them is indicates as the negative contrary of the other” (L. Colletti, “Marxism and the Dialectic,” New Left Review I/93, September-October 1975, 7). I am wary of taking this logical discussion too far in social analysis, as I am aware of Colletti’s problematic political shifts, but I find here a useful ontological resource to move beyond the dead-ends of social constructivism.

Advertisements

reticulation 9.6 copy

Abstract: This essay aims to diagram the set of connectivities (or “system of relations”) developing in business outsourcing affective, communicative labor and the value-adding digital image in contemporary Hindi-Urdu cinema. What emerges is a resonant set of nested temporalities constituting a new media assemblage. Throughout, I draw on a set of analyses that has developed the notion of affective labor as a decisive break in the organization of value under capital. In this work by feminist political economists, postcolonial critics, and Marxist phenomenologists, affect becomes the substance of interaction and communication: distinct from “emotion,” affect is defined by its relational, bodily character, and cannot be reduced to an internalized feeling. In that regard, affect is considered pre-individual, operating in that moving strata of being and becoming where the subject and populations meet. Affect is both virtual and actual at once, it is an emergent, incipient space of mutation and potential as well as the site of modulation, control, and capitalist valorization. Theoretical frameworks that have brought together Marx, Freud, Foucault, and Deleuze have conceived of affective labor using terms such as desiring production, and more significantly, numerous feminist investigations, analyzing the potentials within what has been designated traditionally as women’s work, have grasped affective labor with terms such as kin work and caring labor [or “labor in the bodily mode”]. Through an analysis of No smoking (Kashyap, 2008) and Office Tigers (Mermin, 2006), I explore the singular emergence of affective labor in the South Asian context, in pervasive processes that are informatizing (rendering as/through data) various forms of life and work. I correlate the function of affective labor in both business outsourcing and digital media through analyses of two key modalities: the evolving functionality of information in the nonlinear, open system of computer technology; and the modulation of subjectivity in the capacities of attention and sensation of value creation.

(more…)

This video is a montage of the images with their digital “originals.” I think the video helps defetishize the images, that is it makes the compositing processes a little more palpable. Changing the level of detail changes the sharpness of the color transitions. The processes involved in perception traversing these gradients is what I have been insisting we understand politically, economically, technologically, bodily. At once and altogether. An ecology of sensation, where ecology is understood as a system far from equilibrium involved in creative resonance with other forces, ecologies, material and informational flows.

Arriving trains, Chembur Station

Santa Cruz

(more…)

Train to Virar

These photos seem to me to have come together quite by chance, but then they also emerged from patterns of behavior and forms of style, against the backdrop of flows of people, traffic, capital, information. In India today these patterns are emerging through a new ecology of sensation. But I make no claim for these photographs as “art.” And yet clearly the history of perspectivalism, the dominance of representationalism in the engagement with a living multiplicity is at stake for me in creating these images. There is an accretion of information some of which coheres, much of which does not, but each image has a certain duration at different scales of perception, a noncoinciding resonant unity, a unity-in-multiplicity is what I hope to continue through the photography (mutating affect, not representation). An ecology of sensation meeting its cliché: Bollywood meets graphic novels at the back of a rikshaw, Agra’s Mughal-era oriental(ized) stone work turning topological and dimensional (is it less or more racist? to what extent is the question relevant to what it does?), the ferris wheel on Juhu beach, the weighing machine at the local station. This time that I have been able to spend here in India thanks to a research grant from the Fulbright foundation, has allowed me to research the materiality of the ecology of sensation of mobile phones and experiment in forms of creatively engaging this ecology.

(more…)

It is not right to say that the cinematographic image is in the present. What is in the present is what the image ‘represents’, but not the image itself, which, in cinema as in painting, is never to be confused with what it represents. The image itself is the system of the relationships between its elements, that is, a set of relationships of time from which the variable present only flows.

–Deleuze, Cinema Two: The Time Image

 

I. The Argument

I have three correlated arguments that I will advance through two main cinematic examples.

Arguments:

1.     The analysis of capitalist media flows should first of all foreground the production of values that are immense and immeasurable and yet susceptible to biopolitical control. The globalization of value-added services, processes, and products, and the immaterial labor that is its substrate, is a useful point of departure in such an analysis. This would be to elaborate the obscure connectivity, or better, evolving functionality between the nature of labor exploitation in Business Services Outsourcing and the variable algorithms of Computer Generated Imaging. Let us call this functionality the Value Added Image, and note that the stylization of contemporary Indian urban life in dominant cinema has offered up a new cliché: The “lonely bubble” of the distracted cell phone user, in which the value-added of the interactive cellular screen divides the cinematic scene, interrupting narrative and enabling a forking away from profilmic timespace.

2.     My first argument suggests that the analysis of rasa in film and new media would primarily make perceptible the sensorimotor circuit from bhava-to-rasa, or stimulus to emotion, as a representational capture or habituation of the potentiality of biopolitical value. This is what I am calling an ecology of sensation, that is, the functional connectivities pertinent to the mobilization and capture of bodily affect within a given technological assemblage. Further, I would locate the pre-individual sexualization of media in this domain of affectivity.

3.     Finally, acknowledging the inheritance of Deleuze’s “ontology of sense” rather than the closure of metaphysics, the aim of a media assemblage analysis would be to diagram pragmatically ways of jamming such circuits of habituation by refunctioning the material connectivities themselves. To break the motor of sensation itself is continuous with the multiplicity of insurrections against the capitalist control of value.

In sum, the biopolitical analysis of valorization in new media, as it follows the phase transitions of the body’s affectivity, diagrams sensory-motor circuits of sensation or rasa becoming habit, and the circulation and refunctioning of cliché images. The aim here is to open both thought and sensation to mutations or transvaluations of value itself.

Throughout this paper I draw on a set of analyses that has developed the notion of affective labor as a decisive break in the organization of value under capital. In this work by feminist political economists, postcolonial critics, and Marxist phenomenologists, affect becomes the substance of interaction and communication: distinct from “emotion,” affect is defined by its relational character, and cannot be reduced to an internalized feeling. In that regard, affect is considered pre-individual, operating in that strata of being where the subject and populations meet. The production of affect, in a way which recalls Spinoza’s philosophy, is not conceivable otherwise than in terms of the production of a relation. Defined in these terms, affects seem to be at stake everywhere within a labor world which has been analyzed by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello (Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris, Gallimard, 1999) as dominated by connections, and by the imperative of building connections, of defining one’s own personality as the knot of a network (or better still: of multiple networks). In order to be successful in a world where labor is becoming increasingly flexible, casual, and “precarious”, one has to show that he or she is capable of building relations, of producing affects. In a situation in which the boundary between friendship and business is being itself blurred (are you building a connection with a certain person because you like him or her, or because he or she can be useful for you?), specific problems arise, which can nurture specific disturbances. As Michael Hardt has usefully noted, “The productive circuit of affect and value has thus seemed in many respects as an autonomous circuit for the constitutions of subjectivity, alternative to the processes of capitalist valorization. Theoretical frameworks that have brought together Marx and Freud have conceived of affective labor using terms such as desiring production, and more significantly, numerous feminist investigations analysis the potentials within what has been designated traditionally as women’s work have grasped affective labor with terms such as kin work and caring labor [or “labor in the bodily mode”]. Each of these analyses reveals the processes whereby our laboring practices produce collective subjectivities, produce sociality, and ultimately produce society itself. He goes on to note, that the term service covers a large range of activities from health care, education, and finance, to transportation, entertainment, and advertising. The jobs, for the most part, are highly mobile and involve flexible skills. More importantly, they are characterized in general by the central role played by knowledge, information, communication, and affect. In this sense, we can call the postindustrial economy an informational economy. So the question becomes how, in the context of the informatization of the Indian economy, am I correlating the function of affective labor in both business outsourcing and digital media? One modality of this evolving functionality is the nonlinear, open system of computer technology; another key modality is the modulation of subjectivity in the capacities of attention and sensation of value creation.

 

 

II. Cinematic Examples

            My two cinematic examples are the recent Bollywood flop No Smoking (Kashyap 2008) and the 2006 documentary by Liz Mermin Office Tigers. Office Tigers revolves around Joe Siegelman, a 34-year-old American ex-Goldman Sachs executive, who prances around the Chennai offices of Office Tiger, the outsourcing company that he and a partner founded, and “brags about how fabulously successful it is.” The movie presents itself less as industry expose and more like corporate propaganda for Office Tiger itself. As Anita Gates writes in her New York Times review of the film, “Executives suggest that Office Tiger’s secret is working its staff remarkably long hours, eliminating coffee and tea breaks, and instilling pride in the employees’ work by periodically telling them that they’re the best and the brightest and that this job is the gateway to a glorious financial future for them… [Office Tiger] lies somewhere between a white-collar sweatshop and a religious cult. But that may be true of a lot of corporations.” Gates goes on to note that the company relies heavily on instilling what are seen as American corporate values in their Indian employees. “The better to have them accepted and respected by American clients, the officers believe. For starters that means a 10 a.m. meeting starts at 10 a.m., not 11 a.m. or noon.” My interest in this film comes from the lacunae very much at the surface of the corporate sheen. Moments such as when a white, Jewish American management trainer lecturing the “Talent Transformation Team” tells his Indian employees that “A piece of history is taking place right now here at Office Tiger. It’s not a call center that’s content to do the simplest kind of work imaginable, make a profit and go on. No. Office Tiger is really thinking of innovative, much more efficient ways where the best and bright of India can work with the best and brightest people all over the globe. You guys are truly a part of history. Such a rapid economic development in such a short period of time, such a dramatic change of values. But I have news for you: this is actually the first hint of what’s going to happen, because this process of globalization is jut beginning, and the opportunity for people like you—ambitious, young, talented people—is just starting.” Intercutting random shots of Chennai street life with interviews, the movie also follows the English-speaking Indian employees through long hours of meeting deadlines, learning English grammar, dodging marriage proposals, and singing the praises of Office Tiger. Early on in the film, Deepak, an Operations Account Manager, declares, “I think its great to spend twenty hours a day in the office because that tells you of a great work ethic. I know I have done it in the past. I’m proud of it because that keeps me ahead in this competitive game. Because if I can spend twenty hours, you know, just being the best I can for those twenty hours, I know I’ve gained a lot of ground over all those hungry wolves around me.” The movie makes clear that these hungry wolves are not primarily other outsourcing companies but in fact Deepak’s fellow employees, all of whom are organized into client-specific teams that compete for cash bonuses by constantly upping their own productivity. The bonus is for what is called sustained operations excellence, and the African American head of human resources at Office Tiger calls this meritocracy. (A telling moment in the film is when one of the Indian managers declares that to him one of the greatest business leaders was Adolf Hitler, only to be reprimanded by his Jewish American supervisor for cultural insensitivity.)

            So what is this form of labor? Aneesh argues in Virtual Migrations that a “fundamental transformation in the nature and organization of labor is upon us. With fast data-communication links, programmers and other associated workers based in one part of the world are increasingly able to work on other locations around the globe.” Keeping this transformation in mind, let us draw out some of the key elements of this representation of Indian services outsourcing. First, we note the structured semantic slide between cultural values and capitalist value, which could be shorthanded as: the valorization of labor is part of the revaluation of culture itself. We should specify though that culture here is not merely a set of performative scripts of identity, or discursive constructs of subjectivity, but rather an assemblage of bodily, identitarian, and affective circuits: an entire ecology of sensation and sense.

Office Tiger, the movie and the business model, is careful to stage this dimension of cultural-ecological revaluation: the dichotomies of tradition vs. globalization, Indian vs. Western, familial home vs. world-office are presented again and again as continuous nodes of struggle, negotiation, and mutation. This itself would complicate the too facile argument of the dissolution of boundaries and borders in the new transnational economy; what Office Tiger makes perceptible is the bodily implication, or affective regularities that distinguish value from value, population from population. Thus, the revaluation of culture is seen as necessary to the strategies of capital accumulation. This simultaneous valorization through revaluation bleeds into all the other dimensions of outsourcing labor. For instance, the friction between the expectations of managers trained in neo-liberal meritocracy—what we might call the new abstract labor—and the affective ties of its actual employees stages this disjunction of valuation. These affective ties surface in moments of guarded sociality within the office, in subtle looks of disgust or discomfort exchanged between managers and workers, and workers and camera, in the opposition between marriage and office, in American pop music sung by male workers at office parties and in private get-togethers (“Stand by Me,” “Country Rose”). Moreover, the stark differences of status, wealth, language, and self-representation between the global services employees and the fleetingly visible populations that service them—maintenance, security, and administration staff—bubbles beneath this disjunction. The main point here for the purposes of this paper, is that Office Tiger presents itself as a corporation that provides measurable value-added services to Western firms, but these quantities are abstractions from the streams of immeasurable and immense values of immaterial and affective labor. This is the labor that inhabits, enables and exceeds the boundaries between home and office, between merit and privilege, between men and women, and between work time and leisure time. Indeed, it is the value of temporality itself (starting work on-time, the duration of the work day, the intensification of labor-time through multi-tasking: Aneesh’s “time zone warp”) that is most under attack and occupation by the pedagogies of Office Tiger, as we see in this short clip.

It will be no surprise that at the center of this transvaluation of value is the actual connectivity between work and information technology, established through an algorithm-based governance structure that Aneesh terms “algocratic.” As Upadhya remarks in her review of Aneesh’s study, the algocratic mode of governance depends on technology, especially information technology, which structures work routines and workplace behaviour: in the post-industrial economy many work tasks are now performed through computers and the symbolic manipulation of code, giving rise to new systems of control, based on the coding process. “The algocratic mode has enabled new global flows of information labour as well as control over geographically dispersed workers through constant online access and monitoring, as seen in the model of ‘distributed development’ followed by Indian software outsourcing companies.” Indeed, the digitization of information and its circulation in real time across the globe is the single most important catalyst for this transvaluation of value. For his part, Hardt notes that one “novel aspect of the computer is that it can continually modify its own operation through its use. Even the most rudimentary forms of articifical intelligence allow the computer to expand and perfect operation based on interaction with its user and environment.”

            It is the value-added to valorization by information technology that brings me to a consideration of contemporary Bollywood cinema. Based on Stephen King’s “Cat’s Eye,” No Smoking has been universally panned by the critics as “pseudo-intellectual,” and almost totally rejected by national and diasporic audiences (although it will no doubt find an afterlife on Hindi satellite TV channels such as Sony and B4U). A niche movie without a niche. The plot and camera revolves obsessively around K (John Abraham), a smug, rich, egocentric chain smoker. His wife Anjali (Ayesha Takia) threatens to leave him if he does not quit smoking. K’s mysterious friend Abbas Tyrewala (Ranvir Sheorey) recommends him to a smoking cessation program at an improbably located prayogshala or “rehabilitation center” (translated as “laboratory” in the English subtitles) somewhere in a remote gulley of Dharavi. When K finally arrives after having descended level after level into what will turn out to be his own private inferno, he finds that the program has some rather extreme methods of making you quit smoking. The spiritual head of the center is one Baba Bengali (Paresh Rawal), a proud friend and admirer of the late Adolf Hitler (a Photoshopped image of the Fuhrer and the Baba hangs on his wall). The Baba forces K to sign an absolute agreement: “I hereby agree to do whatever l am asked to do in order to successfully quit smoking. I am getting into this program knowing exactly the risk my smoking will pose to me and my family. Thanks.” If K fails to follow any of the Baba’s rules his entire family will be tortured and killed one by one.

            My interest in this film has to do with its visual and aural style, and its narrative technique. Because its presentation strikes the senses as a kind of hallucination, No Smoking is a kind of movie that makes perceptible the norms of reception that form the set of habituations of contemporary cinema itself. The film concatenates various visual clichés to at times stunning and dizzying effect. For example, animated internal dialogue bubbles borrowed from comic books flash at various moments signaling what a character “really” thinks of another character or the situation; the subtle digital effects that intimate a shadow world of lost souls inhabiting reality; the overall bleach bypass cinematography giving a kind of relentless grayness to the mise-en-scene (a kind of post-industrial imagistic cliché), contrasting with the clichéd spectacle of John Abraham’s star body (specifically his sculpted chest); the blurring of reality, dream, present, past, film, TV and comic book, through various digital effects and a curiously forking narrative produces effects of disorientation and estrangement, even as the camera stabilizes these effects through the focus on Abraham’s body and character; there is also the graphic representation of dismembered limbs, sliced bodies, and asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation, stylized violence very much in the vein of Ram Gopal Varma; the various aural motifs or sound clichés that link Baba Bengali’s violence to shifts in plot and scenario .

            Both these movies pose the question of value and difference. What is the value of the new international division of services, and how does one measure that value given the radically flexible nature of profit accumulation, skilled labor, and labor management strategies in high-tech outsourcing firms?  How are cultural and familial values defined through this shift in the measure of work and profits? What forms of digital technologies add value to the sensory-motor circuits already habituated, pushing perception toward a non-representational becoming?

 

Indian guy: working 20 hours a day; Human resource manager Black; the slavery bit…office tigers never shuts down….where’s your tie? We need help crossing the street…frogger the video game…a few Saturdays will be gone…We never sleep. Be selfish…You can sell yourself like hotcakes outside. Try to understand the mentality…at the end of the day its all about money…Playing Quiet Riot…We wear ties to work because we are professionals…Indian educational system…not creative…India is in a time of transition…value of time…people will look at your shoes first…Creative problem solving…Gradually, get it English speaking…When would there be time for home…Black human resources guy was in the military…Marriage without sex…The marriage issue…Obviously woman…! Leave your personal worries…Hindu/Catholic…Customer is king…Detachment…Ganesh image…

The malevolence of this kind of capitalism…I’m alone, I’m a confirmed bachelor. Metrosexual…mud pack…the Party scenario…Singing John Denver…Action precedes Essence. Pirandello, Sartre…Existentialism…The play has become the reality…The charisma that are to become a manager…Insured…in Indian culture we have hierarchy…Be proud of our Culture…5000 years of culture…two hundred years of colonial history that has taught us to be subservient…Unified field theory…weak forces…gravity is a weak force…not apparent…triggers something deep inside you…The why technique…Why? Winning is everything…On time delivery…The story is about globalization…Wherever we can find the best talent…I want it to be sexy…Stand by me…

 

 

 

Cinema now offers architects ways of connecting remote spaces and relating them through movement, in time. This interaction can be enhanced using the Stanislavskian operative categories of ‘given action’, ‘objectives’ and ‘dramatic units’ as a frame for building narrative blocks into game to bring narrative and dramatic—and hence emotional— added value to the process of immersion. 213

The use of various affective techniques to intensify emotional resonance has become a major source of “value added” in contemporary digital media.

 

Cache uses computer-assisted conception and fabrication-systems (Cache 1995, p.88) in order to inscribe inflections on surfaces of varied curvature. In doing so, he describes the evolution of a form, and its shaping force in time. With the use of advanced geometries, time can be embodied in form—form—for example the kite—is the ‘site’ for the calculation of multiple forces. Digitally-generated environments to be inhabited by a ‘player’ raise the issue of human presence in the space-less environment of the computer. Such environments can be designated as hosts for narration, by rendering time and space through the sustainability of gameplay…. the fusion of the digital and the physical, from which emerges the embodiment of a personal space, developed by the synergy of digital worlds in physical spaces.

 214

My thoughts here focus on trying to make a connection between the synergy of digital worlds in physical space as a key component of value added business services and the visual style and narrative technique of No Smoking. The question remains what are the kinds of affects mobilized in value added outsourcing, value added digital compositing, and the addictions of globalization. … inscribe inflections on surfaces of varied curvature…this seems to me the very description of algocratic control technologies …

 

This supports the development of the relationship between movie time; the duration of the movie; visiting time, the duration of the visit; and the time-image of the narrative. It is important to emphasise that the interactive presentation of audiovisual narrative presupposes a subjective (and in that sense Bergsonian) perception of narrative cues, making the time of exploration of the installation a personal time-image, thus necessarily a personal time-narrative. 215

This is very important: based in the interactivity of new media, the durations embedded within each other become a form of subjectivation. But the question here is does the digitally composited image in contemporary dominant cinema participate in this interactivity—in what way?—and does the perception of narrative cues then qualitatively shift?

 

The generation of an adaptable structural system is the third step. The components of the generated shape will be analysed according to a parametrically- described structural system (more information on the parametric design concept can be found on http://www.smartgeometry.org). The power of such a tactic lies in its ability to allow for the reconfiguration of the design at any point, so that the computer can

re-calculate all the parameters on-the-fly, and update the design automatically, every time the architect changes any of the input values. These values will be changed in response to the way visitors use the exhibition space. The designer can experiment with different spatial configurations, without the need for re-producing the blueprints for the construction. 218

 

The unified workflow enabled by computational design provides the designer with a production-process for the rapid manufacturing of component-based structures. In House of Affects, a process has to be set up which offers a high level of flexibility, so that the design adapts procedurally to multiple criteria, connected parametrically to the structural performance of the system—such as direction of vision, and angles of projection. The product of the design-process will be a cardboard construction, accommodating several compartments that provoke feelings of enclosedeness in the visitor. 218

 

The establishment of this new method for the digital design and manipulation of a spatial construction—instantiated in the prototype installation House of Affects—which allows for flexibility in the production of a series of mutations in the configuration of narrational space, will test and explore the multiple variables of generating a systemic situation. Such a system is designed to allow for an affective conveying of drama, and a sense of narrative immersion, which actively facilitate not only the identification of player (visitor) with character (invisible Stephen), but also cues enactments, permitting the player to use physical

exploration to fully engage with an emotionally-charged audiovisual environment. 218

 

The objective of the House of Affects project, as far as the generation of space is concerned, is to develop a unified workflow for digital design and fabrication, which allows for flexibility in the production of a series of mutants, for a proposed configuration of the space, in accordance with the requirements of a project—the generation of a system of re-configurable structures that adapt to different exhibition spaces, as epiphytes do in nature. (An epiphyte is any plant which grows upon another living organism. Epiphytes are

not parasitic upon their hosts, but derive only physical support from them.) 218-19

 

 

 

Giorgos Artopoulos and Eduardo Condorcet, House of Affects—time, immersion and play in digital design for spatially experienced interactive narrative Digital Creativity 2006, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 213–220

 

 

 

Well Business Process Outsourcing includes all sorts of operations, from telemarketing & client servicing (call centres) to IT and all sorts of back-office operations, medical transcription, image & text editing, internet-based market research, statistical & financial data processing, and so on. Basically almost any process that does not involve decision-making or does not require face-to-face interaction with the client can be outsourced.

 

I also work in this outsourcing market, but as a freelancer, over the Internet. There are several websites mediating between buyers and service providers, and there are thousands of Indians who work this way for western clients, on various projects. The buyers can be individuals, but often smaller companies. This is the underground BPO market, and many freelancers here do it apart from their regular jobs.

 

Whatyiam, from my experience in the freelancing market I can very well understand how terribly frustrating it can get for western freelancers when the Indian comes and bids to do the project at for 2-3$/hour and wins it. People from developing countries (India, Pakistan, Russia, Eastern Europe) flock to bid at ridiculously low rates and sort of “spoil” the market for western freelancers, who find it difficult to win projects at decent rates.

 

Outsourcing:

 

IT Outsourcing:

IT Support

Software development

 

Knowledge Process Outsourcing:

Financial Analytics

Equity Research

Market Analytics

Statistical Data Analytics

Creative Services (Designing, Artwork, graphics, animationetc)

Offshore Engineering and Design

Writing and Content Development

 

 

 

BPO:

Documentation and desk-top publishing(or Pre-media)

Insurance process

Financial Accounting Process

Legal Process

Taxation process

Loan and credit processing

Sales processing

Banking process

 

 

 

Call Center:

Voice Outbound

Voice Inbound

Helpdesk

 

But then that’s the part of occupational diseases one get in any outsourced job. The Indian “speech neutralization specialists” has a put pet name for it – MTI (mother tongue influence!)

 

Back and forth sparked by “Office Tigers” on an Indian travel forum, IndiaMike.com, Dec. 2006. Accessed 10-1-08.

 

 

 

The analysis of sensation in Indian media criticism remains by and large Kantian in that the processual nature of sense perception is necessarily subordinated to the spatialization of representation. In what way does Immanuel Kant’s analysis of sensation and judgment continue to dominate the understanding of the communicability of intuition, or sense perception? He writes in the Critique of Judgment that the “way of presenting [which occurs] in a judgment of taste is to have subjective universal communicability without presupposing a determinate concept; hence this subjective universal communicability can be nothing but [that of] the mental state in which we are when imagination and understanding are in free play (insofar as they harmonize with each other as required in cognition in general)” (Book I; 9; pp 512-13). For Kant, on the one hand, the ideal of beauty does not rest in concepts (which would make it the good) or desire (which would be mere agreeableness), but on a given exhibition, “and the power of exhibition is the imagination” (Book I; 17; 517). It is the indeterminate communicability of beauty that forms the very basis not only for taste, but for moral life itself.  On the other hand, by “sensation” Kant declares that he will mean “an objective representation of sense” (45:12); and he will reserve the term “feeling” (“Gefuhl”) for the “subjective” hedonic tone (what it feels like to have the pleasure). He will speak only of the “feeling,” not of the “sensation” of pleasure. Sensation is thus a matter of perceptual representation; sensations have representational or intentional content. As an example of what he has in mind, Kant gives “the green color of a meadow” (45:16).[i]

 

I will argue in this paper that the communicability of beauty in the representation of sensation is in fact predicated on the ambivalent abjection of sensation itself, or the non-signifying perceptual capacities of the body, and that this abjection is the modality for the elaboration of a biopower of media assemblages. To recall the Natyasastra, such an analysis would follow the bhava of media: the quality, mood, manner, and price of the circulation of energy and matter through media circuits. This biopower of contemporary global media is felt through the exhibition values (Benjamin, S. Hughes) that accrue with the pirated or copyrighted circulation of information through ecologies of digital media and habituated populations. This value is, as Antonio Negri puts it, both immeasurable and immense, infinite but susceptible to control.

 

I. Ittafaq and Memory

I will present this argument by elaborating on two sound/image streams or sensorimotor circuits that have come to dominance in the past ten years in popular Hindi cinema. The first is what I have called the Ittafaq-image. In Untimely Bollywood, I argue that the term Ittafaq, a word whose semantic range includes Accordance, Accident, Agreement, Concord, Chance, Event, Opportunity, has been and continues to be the order word governing the intimate passage from narrative anticipation to song/dance movement and back. Think of the field of emergence for the Ittafaq-image: what does such an image do to articulated sets of relations, singularities, events? The Ittafaq-image relates specific vectors or basins of attraction that energize the suspenseful transition of the body from chance dialogue to anticipated song. From at least the 1950s on, this passage has been seen as the advent and necessary mastery of chance. Indeed, as Peter Brooks pointed out long ago, part of what melodrama does as a technology of subjection is tame chance through the narrativization of coincidence.[ii] Both Vasudevan and Niyogi De note that this is one of the legacies of the translation of the cultural form into popular cinema in India.[iii] 

            I believe that a decisive aspect of what we are witnessing today is the rapid dissolution of the empire of signs, gestures, habituations, spatiotemporalities, and generic codes that governed this passage into and mastery of chance: the Ittafaq-image’s new dispensation. The Ittafaq-image names a passage from a romantic dialectic of Accident-Concord to the proliferation and capture of chance as non-actualized event, as a value-producing pure potentiality to affect and be affected. In short, a new quotidian practice of the Ittafaq-image is coming into being in the contagious becomings of a body which, on the one hand, orients practice toward a non-calculable, always emerging, even non-insurable future, and, on the other, a body overcoded through the probabilistic apparatus of population statistics. I argue that a number of correlated developments have led to a qualitatively new Ittafaq-image in contemporary Hindi-Urdu cinema, and the social practices assembled with media multiplicity. Of signal importance has been the explosion of DJ culture and the specific rhythms and intensities of the audio-visual database as a cultural form in India. The very practice of sampling and harmonizing chance resonances across audio tracks in DJ practice gives Ittafaq a new contagious capacity by linking chance to an ontology of media intervals: patterned but unpredictable. More, the displacement of the bazaar-Talkie by the malltiplex is also correlated with this emergence of new population-segmentations, risk-experiences and chance-subjects, given that the malltiplex is the new arcades where the chance encounter harmonizes with populations of encounters unfolding their own regularity and their own singular creativity (loitering media, clinamedia). Finally, the emergence of the jump cut[iv]–understood as a cut in time and space[v]—in the visual style of certain commercial film genres (see below for examples) has refunctioned narrative in terms of what Gary Saul Morson has called the open time of narrativeness. These vectors of change assemble in the medium of the digital, their interactions synchronized but swerving toward a new experience of Ittafaq. It is here in this emergent timespace, where the regime of human security transforms and orders disparate practices of work, pleasure, and life, that the potentializing of kismat and Ittafaq becomes a matter of sexuality understood as an ecology of sensation. All this suggests that at the level of sensorimotor schema (the diagram of connectivity to historically specific ecologies of sensation) a dissociated body accelerating with the dynamic functionality of a globalizing media assemblage has transformed the mode of address of frontal iconicity so long characteristic of commercial Indian cinema.

 

But this transformation of harmony/chance has catalyzed and feedback looped with another shift, that of the memory-image, or perhaps better the nostalgia-image. Together these two image streams constitute what is a bodily shift in an entire ecology of sensation as temporality is reappropriated in the value-generating flows of the contemporary media assemblage.

 

II. Rasa and Contemporary Cinema

In one sense, the Natyasastra is a taxonomy for dramatic postures. As Phillip Lutgendorf notes, a treatise in thirty-six chapters, the Natyasastra purports to describe the origin and development of drama as well as to treat comprehensively of virtually every aspect of the composition and staging of plays. It details very carefully the various poses and postures linked to this or that emotion. (234) But Bharatmuni also points out that there is no limit to the bhava, and thus no end to the arts involved. (Keep in mind the broad semantic range of bhava: being, existence, quality, way, manner, intention, purpose, meaning, mind, heart, soul, emotion, feeling, inclination, notion, idea, expression, mood, price, rate of exchange. [OHED]) Rasa is a process of producing sensation and pleasure through specific techniques that activate a circuit of information at the “mucosal surfaces of the body”:[vi] the mouth, or better said, the snout-to-belly-to-bowel—the route through the body managed by the enteric nervous system, as Richard Schechner has it (“Rasaesthetics” 27). “The snout-to-belly-to-bowel is the ‘where’ of taste, digestion, and excretion. The performance of the snout-to-belly-to-bowel is an ongoing interlinked muscular, cellular, and neurological process of testing-tasting, separating nourishment from waste, distributing nourishment throughout the body, and eliminating waste. The snout-to-belly-to-bowel is the where of intimacy, sharing of bodily substances, mixing the inside and the outside, emotional experiences, and gut feelings. A good meal with good company is a pleasure; so is foreplay and lovemaking; so is a good shit” (27).[vii]

 

For Schechner, rasa is “the sensation one gets when food is perceived, brought within reach, touched, taken into the mouth, chewed, mixed, savored, and swallowed. The eyes and ears perceive the food on its way—the presentation of the dishes, the sizzling. At the same time, or very shortly after, the nose gets involved. The mouth waters in anticipation. Smell and taste dissolve into each other” (29). Schechner’s rasaesthetics connects up well with the current research on synaesthesia. In a recent article in the journal Nature, Julia Simner and Jamie Ward conclude from their research on lexical-gustatory synaesthetes that the circuit of linguistic thought and sensory perception may well form a continuous, qualitiative multiplicity in all of us to a great or lesser degree.[viii]

 

Comparing rasa—which literally means juice, but perhaps better translates in aesthetic terms to mood—with cooking, Bharatmuni declares that rasa is the final feeling of the spectators who have experienced the various emotions (55). Linking this experience of rasa to the connoisseurs of taste, Bharatmuni, like Plato and Aristotle, ties sensation and pleasure to a pedagogy of the self: “the intelligent, healthy persons enjoy various Sthayi related to the acting of emotions” (55). But there are many aspects of rasa that differentiate it from Platonic or Aristotelian aesthetics. The circuit of stimulus (vibhava), involuntary reaction (anubhava), and voluntary reaction (Vyabhicari bhava) culminates in Sthayi-bhava.[ix]

 

Adapting this perspective for a media assemblage approach, we could say that rasa is an emergent property of the assemblage of body and a given media. I do not think that the theory of rasa requires a taxonomy of gesture. Because the synaesthetic diagrams of gesture-color-sound and the circuits of sensation produced through each map or diagram would be historically specific (arbitrary) given the particular media ecology it is embedded in (which would mean that a rigorous taxonomy would certainly have a crucial role in pragmatically deploying such a diagram). The combination of gesture (movement), design, and voice-music in theatre has a different set of capacities then that produced in narrative cinema. So the connection between gorgeous costumes and the Sthayi bhava of rati (love) is arbitrary—culturally specific, to an extent (although one could I imagine make a case for the transcultural effect of the color red). Compare Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002) or Kashyap’s No Smoking (2007) to In Bruges (2008). In Bruges is a visually breathtaking film in moments, but in a way that is aesthetically but not perceptually different from Devdas; that is by and large the codes of narrative are the same. They both have rasas which differ (hope-death vs. love-addiction), but the difference is involved in the intensive processes of stimulus-response while drawing on a shared set of habituations of sensation and pleasure.

 

Stephen Prince’s response to “cinema language” analyses takes issue with the reduction of filmic perception to “a series of relational differences among arbitrary signs” (“The Discourse of Pictures” 102). Using a cognitive and indeed positivistic approach, Prince argues that pictorial signs bear “clear structural similarities” to their referents. For Prince what is displaced in the arbitrary-relational signifier models are “issues of how cinema is able to communicate crossculturally (i.e. attain global popularity) and the even more basic questions of what makes the cinema intelligible to its viewers” (103). According to Prince, all cultures studies today demonstrate “clear pictorial and cinematic perception abilities” (103). Specifically, in regard to rasa and my argument above, Prince notes that researches have argued that some gestural expressions—those on the face, for example—may function as biologically based pancultural signals for emotion. Thus, the power and appeal of the movies lies in film’s ability to capture the subtleties and nuances of socially resonant streams of kinesic expressions, and not just to passively capture them but, via close-ups and other expressive devices, to intensify and emphasize the most salient cues for the viewer’s understanding in cognitive and affective terms of the meaning of the scenes depicted on screen (101). According to Prince, “The empirical evidence clearly [emphasis mine] suggests that pictorial identification skills do not develop from an extended period of exposure to signification and consequent learning, as do language skills, and that this is probably due to the fact that most realistic pictures are isomorphic with corresponding real world visual displays, unlike symbolic signs, which have a more arbitrary relationship to what they represent” (102). This power of cinema is based on the “clear source” of iconic meaning in motion pictures. 

 

Whence such clarity? Of course, it is ironically the relational differences among arbitrary signs that complicates any obvious clarity, if only in the presentation, in the cognizing of a given image-stream, in its associational and syntagmatic flows. If difference is at the heart of the sign—and this is the implication of both Saussure’s binary sign (he by and large excludes the referent from analysis, and certainly subsequent Saussurean-derived methods are troublingly binaristic, even when Derrida’s notion of force/context displacement is taken seriously) and Pierce’s triadic sign, then its analysis must be a method of a difference that “makes a difference.” As for the later, in “What is a Sign?” Pierce makes clear that a photograph can be both an icon and an indication, and we may add that under a variety of contexts can also be a symbol. (Likenesses or icons serve to convey ideas of the things they represent simply by imitating them; indices show something about things, being physically connected with them—“Such is a guidepost, which points down the road to be taken, or a relative pronoun, which is placed just after the name of the thing intended to be denoted, or a vocative exclamation, as “Hi! There,” which acts upon the nerves of the person addressed and forces his attention” (5); and lastly there are symbols which have become associated with their meanings through usage, or in other words, through convention.) The point here is that before meaning is understood either through its symbolic (arbitrary and conventional) sense, or what Bharatmuni calls vyabhicari bhava, or through its analogical iconic/indexical connectivity, it is pure connectivity first and most crucially. A specific stimulus of energy-in-mater, an interval of connectivity, and it is that durational connectivity where both measurable value and its outside are located.

 

What is important in the intensive processes of perception, in their durations that form resonant unities, is that they return the body at each moment to the non-place of potentiality (the virtual) from which it is actualized. This non-place of potentiality is outside of all measure and yet susceptible to control. This is why the clarity of the iconic meaning is rather less important then the mechanisms of capture and pre-emption involved in the production of specific sets of habituations.

 

This difference has to do with the embedded timescales of their production, from micro-durations in specific regimes of passage (spacetimes of sensation) to population-specific becomings that form over centuries or millennia. So what remains transcultural is the connection between sets of stimuli and particular habituations. Finally, the critical legacy of most importance in rasa theory is the intimation that the body, the embodied mind is itself embedded in and mutates through circuits of sensation and pleasure. In the spirit of both Benjamin and Derrida, we may say that the aim of a non-fascist aesthetics, an aesthetics of monstrosity, would be to open representation to this non-representational becoming.

 

Recently, Phillip Lutgendorf has elaborated a rasa-based interpretation of Hindi films, noting that “discussions of the conventions of Indian popular cinema in terms of those of premodern performance genres often invoke ancient Sanskrit drama and its authoritative treatise, the Natyasastra, yet they seldom offer detailed information about this text.” Lutgendorf notes that the NS is a key moment in the Indian tradition of thinking about performance, and its relevance for film theory potentially goes beyond the stylistic similarities that link the theater it describes with the latest Hindi or Tamil melodrama.[x]

 

 

This format of alternately spoken and sung performance, which gave great emphasis to poetic and musical expression of emotion, survived the demise of Sanskrit drama toward the end of the first millennium CE and became characteristic of a range of regional folk dramatic forms using vernacular languages; it was transferred to the urban proscenium stage by the (mainly Hindi/Urdu language) “Parsi theatre” troupes of the nineteenth century. It also became, after the introduction of film sound to India in 1931, the standard format for commercial cinema. Just as, in Sanskrit and most regional languages, there was no word for “play” that did not imply “music-and-dance drama,” so Indian-English “film” normally means one incorporating songs and dances, and there has never been a separate genre category of “musical” in the Hollywood sense. The specialized skills of lyricists and composers are highly valued within the industry and among its fans, and their names are likely to appear on posters and billboards as a way of promoting a film (stars’ names seldom appear, since their faces instantly identify them). Since the 1970s, dialog writers have sometimes received equally high billing, and the scripts of many popular films have been published in booklet or audiocassette form. (235)

 

Like the Greek philosophers, ancient Indian thinkers were interested in why people enjoy theater and in what they “get” from it; specifically, in why they derive pleasure from seeing things on stage that would not be pleasurable in everyday life. Whereas Aristotle posited katharsis, a purgation or cleansing, the authors of the Nå†yaçåstra and their successors favored a more complex explanation. In their view, primary and individualized human emotions (bhåva) generated by the multifarious experiences of life are transmuted, through their representation by actors in a dramatic spectacle, into universalized emotional “flavors” (rasa) that may be savored by audience members at the safe remove that theater provides (Masson and Patwardhan 1970, 1: 24). The complexity of the theory arises in part from the elucidation of the primary emotions, which comprise love, mirth, anger, pity, heroic vigor, wonder, disgust, and terror—these eight become sixteen, since each bhåva induces a corresponding rasa, which then proliferate geometrically into further subcategories (for example, Nå†yaçåstra 7.6–8; Rangacharya 1996: 65). What is most notable for my purpose is the assumption that, although a given performance will have a predominant rasa (thus a farce will be dominated by håsya rasa, or the comic flavor, and a martial saga by v􀀝rya rasa, or the heroic), it is expected to offer a range of others as well. The imagery used is somatic and in fact gustatory, locating aesthetic pleasure in the body as much as in the mind; thus the text asserts that a drama’s rasa may be likened to the taste produced “when various condiments and sauces and herbs and other materials are mixed” (Nå†yaçåstra 6.31–33; Rangacharya 1996: 55). Further, it is understood that rasas are fleeting and may be enjoyed serially; a successful performance is thus akin to a well-designed banquet or smorgasbord, serving up rasa after rasa for spectators to savor. 237

 

The pace and style as well as the self-assertive ethos of these “action-adventure” tales, which are characterized by abrupt plot turns and mood shifts, dramatic reunions and recognitions, and lyrical interludes set in demidivine or magical realms, are indeed suggestive of masålå films 244

 

 


[i] See Nick Zangwill, “Kant on Pleasure in the Agreeable,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 53, No. 2. (Spring, 1995), pp. 167-176, 168.

[ii] See Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

[iii] See Niyogi De, Esha, “Modern Shakespeare in popular Bombay cinema: translation, subjectivity and community.” Screen, 43(1), 2002, 19-40; Ravi S. Vasudevan, “Addressing the spectator of the ‘third world’ national cinema: the Bombay ‘social’ film of the 1940s and 1950s,” Screen, 36(4), 1995, 305-324.

[iv] jump cut: “In film, radical transition between two camera shots. Jump cuts will cause viewer disorientation and are sometimes used deliberately to create that effect. Howe ver, they are usually accidents that happen as a result of such factors as an extreme change in subject, size, camera angle, screen direction or position, or a camera shift from moving action to a stationary shot. If a jump cut happens too often, the viewer may become irritated and lose interest in the action on the screen” (Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/topic/jump-cut?cat=biz-fin, accessed Oct. 1, 2008).

[v] It is in fact the more subtle cuts in space that give duration to the Ittafaq-image; that is, the sense of an event still expanding, not exhausted is communicated in a certain continuity of spatial markers from one shot to the next, a compressed interval. This is best brought out in the scene of confrontation in Veer Zara: Mariam Hayaat Khan (Kirron Kher) confronts Veer Pratap Singh (Khan) and we shift to the balcony after the play of fearful gazes.

[vi] “The mucosal surfaces of the body are the regions where individuals and the environment meet. For example, the gut mucosa is in continuous contact with food antigens, the enteric commensal bacteria that constitute the gut flora, and potential pathogens that enter the host through the intestine. The gut epithelium and its mucous layer form a major barrier, trapping invading pathogens, which are then eliminated when the gut epithelium is shed. Maintaining the integrity of gut epithelium as well as ensuring its continuous turnover are essential for local defense.” Florence Lambolez and Benedita Rocha, “A molecular gut reaction,” Science 294.5548, Nov 30, 2001, 1848.

[vii] Schechner continues: “Rasa also means ‘juice,’ the stuff that conveys the flavor, the medium of tasting. The juices of eating originate both in the food and from the body. Saliva not only moistens food, it distributes flavors. Rasa is sensuous, proximate, experiential. Rasa is aromatic. Rasa fills space, joining the outside to the inside. Food is actively taken into the body, becomes part of the body, works from the inside. What was outside is transformed into what is inside. An aesthetic founded on rasa is fundamentally different than one founded on the ‘theatron,’ the rationally ordered, analytically distanced panoptic” (29).

[viii] Synaesthesia is a rare familial condition involving a ‘crossing’ of the senses — for example, ordinary activities such as reading or listening to music may be perceived with different colours or tastes1. Here we show that individuals who experience synaesthetic tastes that are elicited by words (who are known as lexicalgustatory synaesthetes) begin to taste an upcoming word before they can actually say it (that is, while it is still ‘on the tip of the tongue’). Taste sensations in these synaesthetes are therefore triggered by thinking of the word’s meaning, rather than by its sound or spelling. It is possible that conceptual thought may even be linked to perceptual experience in all of us….These pathways may operate in everyone, but be exceptionally active in synaesthetes: other variants of synaesthesia (tonecolour, for example) are known to rely on universal cognitive mechanisms, and functional magnetic resonance imaging indicates that merely imagining a taste can activate the area of the normal brain associated with taste. Lexicalgustatory synaesthesia may therefore represent an exaggeration of normal mechanisms that link linguistic thought and sensory perception.” Simner, Julia and Jamie Ward, “Synaesthesia: The taste of words on the tip of the tongue,” Nature, 11/23/2006, 444: 7118, 438.

[ix] Never the other way around according to Bharatmuni—although one could think about the way a rasa in turn, in a feedbacked connection, becomes its own stimulus, and under what conditions would that stimulus lead to a new rasa, or would become an arrest of sensation, a capture of it, a habit. As Schechner glosses it: “The Sanskrit word translated as “connoisseur” is bhakta, which can also mean a person ecstatically devoted to a god, particularly Krishna who is celebrated by means of singing, dancing, and feasting. The sthayi bhavas are the “permanent” or “abiding” or indwelling emotions that are accessed and evoked by good acting, called abhinaya. Rasa is experiencing the sthayi bhavas. To put it another way, the sweetness “in” a ripe plum is its sthayi bhava, the experience of “tasting the sweet” is rasa. The means of getting the taste across—preparing it, presenting it—is abhinaya. Every emotion is a sthayi bhava. Acting is the art of presenting the sthayi bhavas so that both the performer and the partaker can “taste” the emotion, the rasa” (31).

[x] Phillip Lutgendorf, “Is there an Indian way of Filmmaking?” International Journal of Hindu Studies 10, 3 (2006): 227–56, 234. 

 

DO READING OF: http://passionforcinema.com/against-‘no’-to-smoking/

 

III. The Value of Affect

What is this non-representational becoming other than a pragmatic affirmation of what Antonio Negri defines as affect? “Affect can be considered…as a power to act that is singular and universal. It is singular because it poses action beyond every measure that power does not contain in itself, in its own structure, and in the continuous restructurings that it constructs. It is universal because the affects construct a commonality among subjects” (“Value and Affect” 85). Affect as the capacity to act is the name of a desire. Second, affect is the power to transform the universal into the singular and the singular into the universal. This circuit has an expansive dynamic that has no limits (it is thus free, ontologically open, and omnilaterally diffuse [86]), only obstacles (that is susceptible to control mechanisms and algorithms). But that each obstacle overcome adds to its ontological power; the “conditions of action and transformation are from time to time appropriated and go toward enriching the power of action and transformation” (85-6). Negri concludes thus: “Since value is outside of every measure (outside of both the ‘natural’ measure of use-value and monetary measure), the political economy of postmodernity looks for it in other terrains: the terrain of the conventions of mercantile exchange and the terrain of communicative relations. Conventions of the market and communicative exchanges would thus be the place where the productive nexuses (and thus the affective flows) are established—outside of measure, certainly, but susceptible to biopolitical control” (86). Our diagrams have to aspire to the non-dialectical nature of this control in order to short circuit the connection between the diagram and control itself, and loop it into affective flows of a revolutionary nature. “…the standpoint of the oppressed that constructs insurrection and imagines a revolutionary reconstruction, a standpoint from below that richly constructs a non-place of revolutionary reality” (88).

 

As Erik Empson in The social form of value and measure,” notes, “Arguably one of the things that changes in Negri’s conception is that “private” labour is no longer an adequate first term of the problem. The sociality of activity, the priority of the social, is more clearly the premise of our activity, i.e. our activity presupposes the whole activity of social networks of reproduction, and the new immaterial form of labour. The problem is no longer the alienation of the direct producer of value. We could, to play with the Hegelian mutual transformations of quantity and quality, say that the socialization of labour, has created a new qualitative dimension, posited a change in the essence of accumulation. Their question is really; how does the full interiorisation of labour under capital, total subsumption, redefine the operative dimensions of the law of value? For them “The first and fundamental consequence is that there is no possibility of anchoring a theory of measure on something extraneous to the universality of exchange” (2nd thesis on Marx). Well quite so, but that is – as we have shown – exactly Marx’s point in the definition of the ‘immanent standard’” (http://www.generation-online.org).

 

The new mode of production considered by Negri, with communication and mobility as its essence, deconstructs and articulates subjectivity in the same breath. The domination of the law of value, is in the same breath, its deconstruction, because value is only ever an effect of the enactment of creative productive energy (the immanent basis of communism). There is no political moment in this venture, because the process is political from start to finish:

“In the orthodox Marxism of the 19th century, and in any case before 1968, the functions of destruction and reconstruction were separated from the act of insurrection. The immediate strategy of struggle had to articulate destabilization and destructuration, moments of a war of movement and a war of position.” (Thesis 7)

 

IV. Conclusion:


NOTES


I am drawing on Michael Hardt’s definition of immaterial labor as “labor that produces an immaterial good, such as a service, knowledge, or communication” (Michael Hardt, “Affective Labor,” boundary 2, 26:2, 1999, 89-100, 94). Later he notes that this “labor is immaterial, even if it is corporeal and affective, in the sense that its products are intangible: a feeling of ease, well-being, satisfaction, excitement, passion—even a sense of connectedness or community…Such affective production, exchange, and communication is generally associated with human contact, with the actual presence of another, but that contact can be either actual or virtual” (96).

Jonathan Rowe, “Reach Out And Annoy Someone,” Washingtonmonthly.com, Nov. 2000, accessed 10-1-08.

See Linck, Matthew S. (2008) ‘Deleuze’s Difference’, International Journal of Philosophical Studies,16:4,509 — 532, 509-10. “…for Deleuze ontology need not be done in accordance with the dominant strains of the tradition and that, therefore, it need not be constrained by the limitations of that tradition (as Heidegger and Derrida would have it). Rather, given the creation and deployment of new concepts, some to be built upon concepts from the history of philosophy, ontology can still be pursued unhesitatingly. For Deleuze the problem is not that we have come to the end of the epoch of ontology; rather, true ontology is only now beginning to be done. Ontology is yet to come.” (530)

Sandro Mezzadra, “Taking Care: Migration and the

Political Economy of Affective Labor,” http://www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/csisp/papers/mezzadra_taking_care.pdf, accessed October 13, 2008.

Michael Hardt, “Affective Labor,” boundary 2, 26:2, 1999, 89-100, 89-90.

Hardt, “Affective Labor” 91.

Anita Gates, “Helping U.S. Companies Export White-Collar Jobs,” NYTimes.com, Dec. 26, 2006, accessed 10-1-08.

Anita Gates, “Helping U.S. Companies Export White-Collar Jobs,” NYTimes.com, Dec. 26, 2006, accessed 10-1-08.

Anita Gates, “Helping U.S. Companies Export White-Collar Jobs,” NYTimes.com, Dec. 26, 2006, accessed Oct. 1, 2008.

This view is shared by many other analysts of the Indian service economy. For instance, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a global financial consultancy firm “which seeks to promote responsible global citizenship by advancing universal values in business operations around the world,” published a report in 2005 that made India’s rise to global prominence firmly a question of the new service economy: “By contrast, a large proportion of India’s growth comes from high technology processes requiring skilled labor, in which exports of services have played a key role. This growth pattern has resulted in services becoming the largest compo­nent of the Indian economy—contribut­ing 51 percent of GDP—making India’s situation unique in the developing world.

How did India achieve such atypical, yet dramatic success with a service-driven economy? In simple terms, it had enough of the right ingredients to make it the right environment at the right time to do so. Those ingredients—changes that eased its regulatory environment, an available supply of skilled workers who, very importantly, spoke fluent English, and the minimum physical infrastruc­ture—have helped India become an out­sourcing destination of choice for many global technology services companies since the mid-1990s” (“India: Linking into the global services economy,” deloitte.com, accessed October 13, 2008).

Aneesh Aneesh, Virtual Migration: Indian Programmers in the U.S. Based Information Industry, Dissertation, (Rutgers University, 2001) 1.

This would be the beginnings of a critique of Aneesh’s framing in my view (although he does acknowledge the importance of borders and the physical violence that constitutes securing it—see Virtual Migrations 8).

In a review of Virtual Migrations: The Programming of Globalization, Carol Upadhya highlights A. Aneesh’s description of two contrasting systems of Indian software labour deployment—bodyshopping and virtual migration. “Although there is some ethnographic description of the transnational experiences of Indian software workers that place them in an unsettled, interstitial space, the experiences of offshore software workers remain unaddressed. Instead, he focuses on the systems of control that have emerged to govern dispersed IT labour. He argues that virtual software labour migration is characterised by spatial integration (in which work is delinked from the work site) and temporal integration (in which workers in different time zones are linked together), and that this has led to the emergence of a new ‘governance scheme’ and organisational structures. The former are labelled as ‘algocratic’ or in accordance with the rule of algorithm, as distinct from the earlier governance schemes of bureaucratic and panoptical dominance” (Carol Upadhya, Review of Virtual Migrations, in Contributions to Indian Sociology, 42:2, 2008, 344-347, 345).  Upadhya expresses some skepticism of the extension of code to various forms of globalization in India, noting, “I am suspicious of the extension of the metaphors of ‘code’ and ‘programming’ to such a wide range of phenomena and processes: while he is attempting to provide a fresh formulation to describe these forms, the excessive use of these terms may appear more clever than insightful” (346). In what sense is code not a metaphor? Here we would insist that code is the very ontology of social relatedness, the form of value itself, in such IT labor. Negri defines immaterial labor and explicates its implications thus: “Today we face a tendency towards the hegemony of immaterial work (intellectual, scientific, cognitive, relational, communicative, affective, etc.) increasingly characterizing both the mode of production and processes of valorization. It goes without saying that this form of work is entirely subordinate to new modes of accumulation and exploitation. We can no longer interpret these according to the time employed in production. Cognitive work is not measurable in those terms; it is even characterized by its immensurability, its excess. A productive relation links cognitive work to the time of life. It is nourished by life as much as it modifies it in return, and its products are those of freedom and imagination. This creativity is precisely the excess that characterizes it” (Antonio Negri, The Porcelain Workshop, Noura Wedell, trans., [Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2008] 20).

Aneesh, Virtual Migration 2.

Upadhya 345.

Rather than the politicization of real abstraction that Virno gleans from the supposed collapse of labor qua measure, Cillario sees the current figure of real abstraction as centering on the proliferation and production of new procedures, of codes of production, of transmissible ‘hows’ rather than measurable ‘whats’. The organizational codifications of the processes in which incommensurate use values are produced becomes central, but the locus of abstraction becomes not labor per se, or commodity-exchange, but the role of cognition within the laboring process. Even if procedures themselves are then subjected to the standards of exchange (i.e., they in turn become products), their centrality to a capitalism that more and more takes the figure of ‘flexible accumulation’ marks a mutation in the character of real abstraction. As Cillario writes, ‘‘The incessant impetus aimed at the change in the methods and procedures of laboring activities is the generative nucleus of the abstractive process of knowledge’’ (1990, 168 /9). The centrality of procedures also means that, in a way that is not necessarily pregnant with emancipatory possibilities, reflexivity is at the heart of contemporary capitalism. That is, it is not just the abstraction of capital’s forms, but its colonization of cognition, that is crucial to an understanding of the present. ‘‘The concept of abstraction which is adequate to the phase in which knowledge becomes capital stems from the reflexive character of the process of social labor’’ (Cillario 1990, 168; 1996, 52)” (Toscano, Alberto, “The Open Secret of Real Abstraction,” Rethinking Marxism, 20:2 (2008), 273—287).

Hardt 94.

Praveen Lance Fernandes, “No Smoking,” Oct. 26, 2007, movies.indiatimes.com. Accessed Oct. 1, 2008. “No Smoking was one of the biggest disasters of the year & has made only 1.93 crore in its puny 3-week run that began with 1.73 crore,” “A ‘Wonderful’ Exclusive: 2007 Year-End Box-Office Analysis Report – India ~ Actresses,” bwtorrents.com, 12-14-2007. Accessed Oct. 1, 2008.  

John Abraham resumes smoking for a role in the film No Smoking,’” Bollywoodmantra.com, Nov. 21, 2006. Accessed Oct. 1, 2008.

As is well known, bleach bypass, also known as skip bleach, involves either the partial or complete skipping of the bleaching function during the processing of film negative. Bypassing the bleaching step allows silver as well as the color dyes to be retained in the image. The result is a black and white image over a color image. The images usually would have reduced saturation and latitude, along with increased contrast and graininess. It usually is used to maximal effect in conjunction with a one-stop underexposure. “For the skip bleach look, Cameron used a combination of between 50 and 100 percent bleach bypass, along with pulling the exposure one to two stops, depending on the scene. ‘If something was extremely contrasty, I might only skip bleach it 50 percent and pull it 1.5 stops to reduce the contrast a little bit,’ he explains. Company 3’s Stefan Sonnenfeld and Shane Harris then returned equal amounts of red, green and blue to the image during post. ‘It’s almost like a three-strip Technicolor look, similar to what Robert Richardson used in [portions of] The Aviator,’ says Cameron. ‘Because, effectively, when you skip bleach, you’re adding a black and white image on top of the color image. Then, when you put light through it, you’re effectively getting a desaturated image. I wanted to add back in the red, green and blue to give it almost a combination of skip bleach and Technicolor look.’ Sonnenfeld delivered digital dailies to Scott and Cameron on the set with that look roughed in so the pair got a sense of how the look would appear for any given scene. Bleach bypass can be done at any step in the photochemical development process-to the original camera negative, interpositive, internegative or release print-though the result is slightly different at each stage. The process is generally applied at the internegative stage. For Deja Vu, the bleach bypass was applied to the camera negative, not in printing, something studios usually wish to avoid. ‘Thankfully, I was able to get Tony and [producer] Jerry [Bruckheimer] to go for it. It really gives the film an interesting look’” (Matt Hurwitz, “Tony Scott’s Production: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again,” Digital Cinematography, 110, October 2006, 13).

The kind of digital experience that is said to “add value” to cinema can be discerned in this comment: “’Because of the unique geometry of our theaters, that means Beowulf in IMAX 3D will be experienced right at the bridge of your nose,’ explains Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment. ‘Since the IMAX 3D DMR process lets us change the perceived camera angles, in certain sequences we have enhanced the 3D view to better take advantage of the IMAX 3D presentation. People looking at an IMAX 3D film are constantly grabbing, ducking and having an “I am in the middle of it” experience’” (Jay Ankeney, “An ancient legend spans film formats: Beowulf to be released simultaneously to IMAX, 3D, 2D and 35mm screens,” Digital Cinematography, 3.5 (Nov 2007) 16.

Delanda talks movingly, yes movingly–what to do about Delanda’s style? there must be an untimely experience here as well–of the virtual; he writes, “The modelling process begins with a choice of manifold to use as a state space. Then from experimental observations of a system’s changes in time, that is, from actual series of states as observed in the laboratory, we create some trajectories to begin populating this manifold. These trajectories, in turn, serve as the raw material for the next step: we repeatedly apply the differentiation operator to the trajectories, each application generating one velocity vector and in this way we generate a velocity vector field. Finally, using the integration operator, we generate from the vecotr field further trajectories which can function as predictions about future observations of the system’s states. The state space filled with trajectories is called the “phase portrait” of the state space.” The aim here is to treat analyses of media assemblages as “phase portraits.”  There are many approaches to this question, but perhaps we could begin by saying that it is a matter of scale. 

There is this wonderful phrase in Zen the sense of which is that one’s practice of Buddhism should be one long unbroken unbalancing, a long, uninterrupted mistake. In Zen, of course, this means that one is always correcting one’s practice, because one is always drawn toward that asymptotic attractor, the ego, the substantive self, the spatialized self. But we need spaces that diagram potentiality, the vector field of identity. 

To resume my last post:

Concomitant with this economic shift in India was the regionalization of politics toward what commentators have called vernacular modernities, where people live in the world of the local language and in its media, and follow whatever variously constructed “traditional” customs suit them, but also negotiate aspects of Western modernity, such as computer engineering or agrobusiness. This suggests that modernity is not a line of development, but a gradient of non-linear forces, that birfucate and undergo phase transitions. There is phrase that captures this self-organizing economic dynamic: patterned but unpredictable. In terms of the political economic variables that cannot be reduced the positionality of the already known, we should not forget that India continues to grapple with at least three armed insurgencies each with very long histories and substantive critiques of Indian modernity: The Kashmiri (Pakistan-influenced) insurgency for democratic rule; the Assamese rejection of centralized Indian nationalism; and of course the ongoing Naxalite-Moaist movement for rural power, land, and resource redistribution in parts of eastern and southern India. Further, the past twenty years has seen the introduction of new economic gradients centered on global financial practices, information technologies, and a service economy displacing an agricultural one. These economic gradients have also meant that there is a re-potentialization, an intensification, and new critical thresholds of sun- and water-based energy flows throughout India’s new ecology of capital. Thus, on the one hand, the harvesting of sun and water energy have become subservient for the first time (beginning around 2000) to the harvesting of information-energy.

 


1. In terms of the postitionality of the already known see Massumi, Introduction to Parables of the Virtual.

2. In terms of the shifts in economic gradients, and the emergence of new forms of energy exploitation see Cities as Dissipative Structures, Manual Delanda, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, and A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History

Let’s begin with Helen!

What is a history of media assemblages/ecologies? Helen from the \

Take the example of race and colorism in Hindi-Urdu Cinema. This is a draft of a paper I delivered at the Duke University Public Policy Institute in a “Work in Progress” conference held jointly with UNC.              

The analysis of cinema becoming media suggests to us a method of diagramming mutations of perception. I argue, then, that first and foremost Bollywood has been a mode of mutation for everyday life in India and its diaspora. This would be to think Ashish Nandy’s notion of popular film as the slum’s eye view of the world with Brian Massumi’s notion of perception before experience. Habits come in populations, media come in events. Posed another way: Film media mutate perceptions through representations and habits of consumption across diverse populations. In India, these representations and habits have contributed to the formation of what we might call borders and interfaces between populations, technologies, and transnational spaces. In other words, Bollywood has itself been a racializing technology, in its representations, themes, images, dances, and songs, and, as importantly, in its habits of consumption, its technologies of presentation, exhibition, and circulation, or what I call more broadly Hindi-Urdu media’s ecology of sensation. Second, I contextualize the questions of race and colorism in terms of a few broad historical transformations. The first is the fairly rapid dissolution of the Nehru-era hegemony of the Congress centered on secularism, socialism, and nationalism. This refers to the rise of liberalization as state industrial and agricultural policy in the 1980s, and globalization as cultural practices centered on the consumption patterns of a growing middle class since the mid-1990s. So the sense of what India’s borders are in terms of a national imagining has shifted over the past thirty years as transnational capital has transformed India’s relationship to the modernities of globalization, which is to say simply that race and racialization today is inseparable from practices of consumption. There were many causes and historical conjunctures that led to the dissolution of the Nehru-Gandhi hegemony. For instance, the green revolution which gave rural-based populism new political and economic power, and which also had repurcussions in terms of the financial structure of popular cinema.
(More soon.)
There are a number of Helen clips on YouTube. One describes her thus: “This is a shortened version of the interesting 40 minute Merchant Ivory documentary “Helen, Queen of the Nautch Girls”.  Helen (born October 21, 1939) is one of the most popular classical Bollywood actresses, best known for playing vamps and vixens in Bollywood movies of the 1960’s and 70’s. She was famous for her performances in flamboyant dance sequences and cabaret numbers.” 
I am interested in Helen, the biracial cabaret dancer, the nautch girl/bazaari aurat, because she seems to have brought together a number of forms of movement together. As we shall see in subsequent posts, Helen brought together the dance with the chase, and her cabaret numbers take their ecology from this convergence of cinematic motifs. More, Helen brought the ethnic/racial other into a multisensorial communication channel with a “camp” sexuality. The performativity of her identity interests me little if at all, but what I am going to suggest is that performativity, as gridded but repetitive practice, is constituted by the ensemble of movements, the mixtures of duration, that I am calling an ecology of sensation. What needs to be specified and argued concretely is the particular resonant unity that emerges in the Helen assemblage. We will develop this point in subsequent posts. I have taken this clip from the Merchant Ivory film; I have wanted to focus specifically on Helen’s dance and racial/ethnic otherness.