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A Tragedy

Abstract

Numerous studies have dealt with the process of globalization and its various cultural products. Three such cultural products illustrate this process: Vikas Swarup’s novel Q and A (2005), the TV quiz show Kaun banega crorepati? (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?), and Danny Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The novel, the TV show and the film have so far been studied separately. Juxtaposing and comparing Q and A, Kaun banega crorepati, and Slumdog Millionaire provides an effective means to shed light on the dialogic and interactive nature of the process of globalization. It is argued through this case study that an analysis of their place of production, language and content, helps clarify the derivative concepts of “glocalization” and “grobalization” with regard to the way(s) contemporary cultural products respond to globalization.

Abstract

A lonely wife in Kolkata and a bachelor in London have a virtual affair, but are forced to re-think their relationship when they discover he is her brother-in-law. Charulata 2011 is an ingenious post-millennial adaptation of Tagore’s novella, Nastanir (The Broken Nest, 1901), already immortalized by Satyajit Ray in his classic Charulata (1964). This intertextuality, especially with Ray, lends an added dimension to the film, allowing Chatterjee to contrast two modernities in Bengal – the colonial and glocal – over the course of a century. Both these women gain temporary respite from their suffocating marriage through an affair, but their circumstances are vastly different. While Tagore/Ray’s heroine (like Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and Lady Chatterley) could only bond with a man she knew, technology expands Charulata’s choice in 2011. She romances the strange and the unknown – an unseen tall dark stranger with a gift for words. While the nineteenth century Bengali heroine had to reign in her erotic impulse, her twenty-first century counterpart submits to it, though with an overwhelming sense of guilt. But there are similarities too – both are childless homemakers; have a literary sensibility; and though a 100 years apart, in both their cases, the lover eventually departs, and duty ultimately wins over passion, bringing back the duly chastened wife to the wronged husband. Charulata 2011 thus dramatizes a glocalized South Asian narrative, where the protagonist negotiates an uneasy juxtaposition of a globalized outlook on the world with the entrapment of age-old social obligations in her self.

Abstract

That the adaptation of international ideas and foreign technology had an impact on local film culture, is not a new idea in Indian cinema. Nevertheless, more scholarship and greater familiarity with extant literature are needed. This article aims to contribute to the study of the integration process of early Indian films into World cinema. This article considers the early ‘glocalization’ in Indian cinema which traces the process of universalizing particular experiences in silent cinema and transcending from the local to (achieve) global levels. Through the analysis of the films of Dada Saheb Phalke and Himanshu Rai, two film producers who were hugely impacted by the European style of filmmaking, I will discuss how their global vision with local considerations played a decisive role in shaping the early Indian film history. I argue how local and global forces in Phalke and Rai’s cinema boosted cultural open-mindedness and economic growth.

Abstract

Kashinath Singh’s three Banaras-novels are interesting examples of the continuing occupation of a contemporary author with urban space and its social life. Beyond Banaras 1 as a physical location, the three novels emulate deeper and more symbolic layers of meaning of a cityscape with its fascinating complexity of social, cultural and religious relations between tradition and modernity. Kashinath Singh’s Banaras trilogy also represents the changing perspective of its author on his surroundings over the course of his lifetime. While the plot of Apnā morcā unfolds in the culture of political debate during the 1960s and early 1970s in the university milieu, Kāśī kā assī can be read as a kind of documentation on the author’s vivid relationship with a traditional quarter of the town and its lifestyle. Rehan par Ragghū, the third novel, somehow continues the sense of loss that is already present in the nostalgic mood of Kāśī kā assī. It deals with the growing disillusionment of the elder generation with contemporary society, its self-focused individualism and social modernity as such. The novel is about the betrayed hopes of a father in his children, the opening rift between generations and the general decline of values. The change of the central location of the plots in the three novels from the university quarter and from a traditional environment in the old town towards the “new colonies” also marks a shift from progressivism towards existentialism, and from topophilia to despair.

Footnotes

1

I use “Banaras” in this article. The English spelling “Benares” is still used occasionally. The official name of the town is “Varanasi” (Hindi: Vārāṇasī).

Abstract

French authors in the nineteenth century assumed that before the colonial conquest of the Maghreb, all Muslims in the region had abstained from alcohol. As a consequence, they were both surprised at and fascinated by the alcohol consumption of the colonised Muslims in the Maghreb, which they interpreted as an irreversible break with Islam (i.e. turning drinkers into apostates) and a necessary consequence of the spread of French colonialism. Some French authors even tentatively interpreted alcohol-drinking Muslims as showing signs of assimilating French culture and thus – in the colonial worldview – advancing in civilisation, while others regretted both their loss of abstinence as well as their alleged taste for particularly strong forms of alcohol, such as absinthe.

This article will focus on the consumption of champagne. The French discourse on Muslim champagne drinkers focused on often ridiculed “justifications”, allegedly reported to French settlers and travellers in the Maghreb, through which Muslims “explained” why the consumption of champagne – as it was only “gazouz”, i.e. lemonade – did not constitute a transgression of one of the most visible of Islamic laws. These colonial descriptions of wine-abstaining, champagne-consuming Muslims offers an insight into how differences were created between coloniser and colonised, between civilised and primitive, and how the consumption of the same drink did not necessarily lead to a shared experience.

John Lewis Burckhardt from Basel (1784–1817) – the oriental traveller malgré lui and his journey to the Druzes in Mont-Liban Abstract

The characterisation of John Lewis Burckhardt alias Sheikh Ibrahim as a traveller malgré lui, in opposition to his own primary intention, may at first glance surprise one. It calls for a short introduction to his life and to his work in Basel and in London as well as to his contacts with the African Association. This text provides this introduction and then follows Burckhardt’s journey during the spring of 1812 from Damascus through Mont-Liban, the hills between the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean and the mountain chain with the famous cedars. For centuries this area, the Chouf, has been the homeland of the esoteric ethno-religious group of the Druzes. Since the time of the Enlightenment, secret religions have constituted one of the main interests of Western travellers. For only three days Burckhardt was a guest of Emir Bašīr Šihābs in his palace at Beit ed-Din. There he met also once the chief of the Druzes, Sheikh Bašīr Ǧunbalāt. His description of Druze customs and ways of life and his analysis of the rivalry between the two major authorities of Mont-Liban helps one to understand the continual tensions between Druzes and Maronites, which resulted in a series of massacres between 1825 and 1973.