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Sangita Gopal- Fugitive Infrastructures: Women's filmmaking and Video in India

November 8, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
McMurtry, Room 115


Building on exciting work on documentary in India as well as studies of media infrastructures in the global south, Dr. Gopal lectures to how the affordances of video aligned with feminist radical politics in India in the 1980s. This decade witnessed the beginnings of alternative media practices in India and anchoring this new media revolution was a pioneering embrace of video technology by the women’s movement. Unlike radio and television that were state-owned and controlled, the state had little interest in video.  It relaxed licensing laws and this permitted the import of video cassettes and video recorders so that by 1983/4 the market was being flooded with video technology imported from Singapore and Hongkong. Video’s productive potential – video recorders were relatively inexpensive, mobile and flexible devices for filming – was realized most fully by the feminist mediamakers.  Though video did not necessarily acquire the countercultural vanguardist status it had elsewhere in the world, as I will show, it significantly de-centralized and democratized media production through collectives such as Yugantar and CENDIT. These collectives’ conception of the political documentary was fully anchored by the connections between media and feminist action being forged by filmmakers such as Yugantar founder Deepa Dhanraj, CENDIT member Akhila Iyer, feminists Kamla Bhasin and Anjali Monteiro. They sought to capture through video events not being reported by “big” media that could then be used as “evidence” for feminist activism. But they also used video virally – to create networks of information and action. Dr. Gopal will touch upon the first artistically insurgent uses of video produced by the collective, MediaStorm, that used the “low-tech” pirate aesthetics of video to create media that repudiated not only the economic but also the aesthetic regimes that the state and media industries had used to figure gender as an object of social attention. Dr. Gopal will then turn to the highly-reflexive discourse on video by feminist filmmakers such as Deepa Dhanraj to show how the temporality of video circulation and the material ephermerality of video technology seemed particularly suited to a feminist ethicopolitics that wanted to erect fugitive infrastructures that would elude diverse forms of ideological and statist capture.

Sangita Gopal is associate professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Oregon. She is author of Conjugations: Marriage and Form in New Bollywood Cinema (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and coeditor of Intermedia in South Asia: The Fourth Screen (Routledge, 2012), and of Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Film Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008). She is currently working on a book on feminist mediawork in India in the 1970s entitled Mixed Media: A History of Women’s Filmmaking in India  and finishing a monograph on the careers of Ivory, Merchant and Jhabvala entitled Transnational Film Production and the Social Network. Her more recent publications have been in venues such as Feminist Media Histories, Cinema Journal and New Literary History.

Lunch will be served on a first come first serve basis begining at 11:45am. No food will be allowed into the lecture room. 

Event Sponsor: 
Center for South Asia
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