By Manju Gupta
Locating Cultural Change: Theory, Method, Process, Partha Pratim Basu & Ipshita Chanda, Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, Pp 279 (HB), Rs 795.00
Through a collection of essays, the book defines the ‘local’ concerns through case studies of specific cultural processes and the wide range of phenomenon that are a part of our daily life spanning Bollywood films, the vernacular press, the metropolitan club culture, the translation industry in India, medical advertisements and prime-time television serials. The thrust is on the institutionalisation of local concerns where the ‘local’ is the site of ideas and issues and how these in turn influence us. The main point it tries to convey is that in order to understand the common man’s perspective, we have to demystify the cultural processes.
Abhijit Roy in his paper sets out to map the vision of the ‘modern’ in contemporary television serials to draw attention to the way the ‘post-colonial’ negotiates the ‘global’. Critical assessments of Indian tele-soaps stresses the ‘residual’ nature of India’s feudal order to show how certain values and rituals sustain their antagonistic position vis-à-vis modernity.
Modhumita Roy examines the intersection of ‘fertility technologies’ and the global outsourcing of reproductive labour in the less developed world. She argues that the recent breakthroughs in fertility technologies have opened up a ‘brave new world’ whose women now sell various functions of their bodies to produce a commodity – she has become a ‘factory’ producing the human body shop’s most precious product.
Manas Ghost talks of commodisation of cricket as a sport and its transformation into ‘entertainment’ and as a media game. As a result, sports have become a marketable commodity. Rajdeep Roy traces the establishment of a hero figure related to the ‘underworld’ as represented through popular Bollywood films, where terror emerges as a marketable commodity controlled by the ‘underworld’ and as Mumbai becomes the scene of communal disturbance.
Partha Pratim Basu says that while the part played by the vernacular press in raising the pitch of the ‘majoritarian Ram Janambhoomi’ campaign and inflaming anti-Muslim passion in Gujarat has already produced a formidable literature, it is no less important to look at the issue from the reverse, that is, how the question of the right of the minorities have been portrayed in the vernacular press of West Bengal, which happens to be a state claiming pluralistic heritage. Nilanjana Gupta and Devlina Gopalan investigate the makeover of club culture in Kolkata, a distinctive component of the city’s rich colonial heritage. They discuss the reinvention of Kolkata’s club culture in the wake of the emergence of a ‘global’ culture in city life. This is a very subject-specific book.
(Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, B1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, Post Bag 7, New Delhi-44; www.sagepublications.com)