Accepted Paper:

"Tribal" consciousness on VideoCD? State, ideas of belonging and popular Santali films  


Markus Schleiter (University of M√ľnster)

Paper short abstract:

In the paper I will explore in which ways claims on entitlements and cultural recognition of Santals, forwarded to and negotiated with the state, based on being a "tribe", impact the emerging of VCD circulation of popular Santali films and thereby, shape connected mediations of a Santal belonging.

Paper long abstract:

The categories "tribe" or Adivasi (Hindi: first people) are crucial to Santals in claiming entitlements from the state. The same denotification Adivasi - then reassassed as migratory group - had reversely been the base of ethnic struggles against Santals in Assam; and thereby again re-enforced Santal politics on the basis of being a "tribe". The appearance of VCD production of popular Santali films with a high circulation among Santals can be regarded to reflect the above by spreading a hybrid "Bollywood" version of Santal identity through displaying "traditional" costumes and houses, but also jeans and guitars.

In the paper I will argue on the basis of field studies, including members of Santals in Assam, West-Bengal and Odisha that, indeed, the state and its differing actors being the arena of forwarding political claims based on a "tribal" status, have left their imprint in triggering patterns of identity articulations, like a widespread focus on cultural associations as institutions of preserving "tradition". As a consequence, these practices of preserving Santal "tradition" have become part of mediating a belonging through Santali films. For instance, film watchers discuss effects of films on Santals, and thereby, paradoxically, reconfirm the need of Santal "traditions" by disavowing modernizing effects of the films. Juxtaposing differing audience settings, I will then, however, argue, that film watchers articulate very diverse ideas of a Santal belonging, and such mediations are profoundly shaped by (differing) practices of preserving "traditions", which, in some cases are strongly inspired by state practices of evaluating cultural "traditions".

Panel P50
State-identity interface: explorations in economic, social and cultural dynamics of tribal communities