This presentation will analyze the textual codes, practices of circulation, and modes of reception of cinema in India to explore the links between the erotics of film viewing and the public terrains of queerness. Dr. Mokkil will analyze the cinematic codes of a selection of Malayalam films from the 1980s to explore how regional cinema in India draws on established tropes of romance to represent queer intimacy on screen. In a film such as Deshadana Kili Karayarilla (The Wandering Bird does not Cry, 1986) lesbian intimacy comes alive on screen through a recognizable repetoire of spatial and bodily idioms of romance. Thus practices of citation play a crucial role in putting into circulation multiple ways of imagining desire. In conjunction with this cinematic analysis, Dr. Mokkil will examine how in the long history of mainstream film festivals in India, ‘world cinema,’ mediated by European art-house cinema has functioned as a repository of queerness. The economy of film festivals is usually placed in opposition to low budget theaters and soft-porn movie halls that are marked as unseemly spaces of sensationalism and excess. But the memories of state-run film festivals that Dr. Mokkil will engage with, shows how these sites of cultural exposure for the citizen in practice engendered slippages between the contained, rational viewer and the affective spectator. Both low budget theaters and film festival screenings are collective spaces of film viewing that may have the potential to disturb normative sexual arrangements. The sensual circuits of cinema in India offer a productive entry-point to trace the links between cultural practices, volatile publics and unruly networks of sexuality.
(Lecture 3 to 4PM, followed by discussion (optional))
Navaneetha Mokkil is an Assistant Professor at Center for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her areas of research and teaching include feminist politics in India, print and visual culture, and public formations of sexuality. She completed her PhD in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan in 2010. She is the author of Unruly Figures: Queerness, Sex Work and the Politics of Sexuality in Kerala (2019, Seattle: University of Washington Press) and co-editor of Thinking Women: A Feminist Reader (2019, Kolkata: Stree Samya Publishers).