We are looking for an intern with a strong interest in digital publishing!

For the further development of its hybrid publication strategy – combining digital and print books and other media – the Institute of Network Cultures is looking for an

Intern with a strong interest in (digital) publishing


3-6 months, 4 days a week, starting February 2018

You will work on international publications in the field of online media in different formats (print, PDF, EPUB). The internship offers both practical experience and a chance to conduct research in the field of hybrid publishing. A strong command of the English language in reading and writing is necessary, as most of the publications are in English. We are looking for someone with a keen interest or background in new media, writing & editing and/or the book industry. It is possible to do research for a thesis within this internship.

The Institute of Network Cultures (INC) is a media research center that actively contributes to the field of network cultures through research, events, publications, and online dialogue. The INC was founded in 2004 by media theorist Geert Lovink as part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam). The institute acts as a framework sustaining several research projects, with a strong focus on publications. For more information see http://networkcultures.org/. For an overview of all INC publications go to http://networkcultures.org/publications. The INC collaborates closely with the PublishingLab.

Internship duties include:


  • Researching digital publications and developing research proposals in the field;
  • working with the hybrid publishing workflow;
  • assisting with the production of new titles, both print and electronic, including editing manuscripts.

The intern will be a part of a small team within a large institution. Other tasks within the team may include:

  • Attending meetings;
  • communication and PR;
  • researching and writing blog posts;
  • collecting and reviewing interesting and relevant literature;
  • assisting with other projects in the INC;
  • being part of the crew at INC events.

We offer:


  • The opportunity to be part of a dedicated, informal, and inspirational organization with extended international networks;
  • experience in the front line of new developments in publishing;
  • a chance to enhance your writing, editing, media, and research skills;
  •  a small monthly compensation.

For further information you can contact Inte Gloerich
 at inte@networkcultures.org or +31 (0)20 5951865.

Applications: if you are interested please send your resume and cover letter to inte@networkcultures.org before November 26th 2017.

The Radical OA Collective: building alliances for a progressive, scholar-led commons

Underneath a blogpost Samuel Moore and Janneke Adema wrote, which was originally published on the LSE Impact Blog, here.


The Radical Open Access Collective launched its new website earlier this week. Open access has always been about more than just improving access to research, and Janneke Adema and Samuel A. Moore here highlight what the Radical OA Collective can offer. A focus on experimentation with new forms of publishing and authorship; the promotion of traditionally underrepresented cultures, languages, and publics; and an understanding of publishing as a relational practice, highlighting and caring for the relationships involved throughout the process, all form part of the Radical OA Collective’s underlying philosophy.

This week saw the launch of a new website for the Radical Open Access Collective, a vibrant community of presses, journals, publishing projects, and organisations all invested in not-for-profit and scholar-led forms of academic publishing. The members of this collective showcase the wide variety of alternative forms and models of open access publishing currently experimented with, mainly in the humanities and social sciences. This in a context where, although open access is now finally gaining ground, the spirit of experimentation that originally fuelled this movement is being progressively sidelined by a growing reliance on and implementation of specific, market-driven open access publishing models (particularly those connected to exorbitant article and book processing charges); models which do not necessarily suit, support or sustain open access publishing in the humanities and social sciences, but which do serve commercial stakeholders’ interests and the current publishing status quo.

The Radical OA Collective reminds us that experimentation with new forms of publishing remains essential, and that open access has always been about more than just improving access to research. As a movement open access has also focused on exploring and promoting not-for-profit, institutional and academic-led publishing alternatives, for example. This is to provide a counterpoint to the commercial legacy system and the vast profits it extracts from our scholarly research and communication interactions. This system has posed specific risks to specialised book publishing in the humanities, to the publication of books by early-career researchers, and to the dissemination of research from those working in the global south or writing in languages other than English; all of which, although essential to sustaining the scholarly conversation, often lack a direct market appeal. To counter this the Radical OA Collective highlights the importance of making publishing more diverse, equitable, and open to change, where it wants to ensure that new and underrepresented cultures of knowledge are able to have a voice. Members of the collective therefore work together to champion the variety of alternative models for scholarly communication that currently exist, and the collective is keen to build alliances with other initiatives interested in building a collaborative and non-competitive publishing ecosystem; one which supports a progressive and multi-polar knowledge commons.

During open access week, we’d like to highlight three examples of what radical open access, and the Radical OA Collective specifically, brings to open access.

1. A focus on experimentation

Members of the collective do not shy away from asking difficult questions about what publishing is and, with that, what it can become. Many initiatives within the collective see their publishing projects as an extension of their own critical work and a way to explore different modes of publishing, often deterred by our (still very paper-centric) established publishing forms and practices. As such they have been keen to experiment with publication forms, models, processes, relations, and agencies, cutting through the stabilisations within scholarly publishing–from the fixed book to the single author–that, often uncritically, have become disciplinary norms. This open-ended critical experimenting has become a guiding principle for many initiatives to explore the potentially more politically and ethically progressive possibilities made possible by technological developments and digital tools; to investigate how these might impact on the ways in which research will be conducted, disseminated and consumed in the future. As an ongoing critical process, experimenting can therefore be seen as a form of intervention into the object-formation and increasing marketisation of publishing and academia.

Many of the projects involved in the collective see open access as essential to enabling these new forms of (digital) experimentation. This may be through communal authoring and editing of wiki books (see Open Humanities Press’ Living Books about Life series); anonymous or collective authorship (in the case of an Uncertain Commons, for example); or multimodal or digital-only publications, publishing platforms and software (including ground-breaking initiatives such as Vectors and Scalar, but also newer projects, such as electric press and Textshop Experiments) next to projects that want to focus on what openness means for images and visual forms of communication (i.e. Photomediations Machine) for example. But alongside experiments such as these we also want to highlight projects that aim to cut across both disciplinary boundaries and distinctions between practice and theory (for example Goldsmiths Press, which also focuses on publishing literary and artistic works), as well as scholarly communities that are experimenting with the creation of new communities and social networks to share research and establish cross-disciplinary alliances (from MediaCommons Press, to The BABEL Working Group and Humanities Commons).

2. Underrepresented cultures

One of the main motivations underlying the Radical OA Collective concerns the promotion of diversity and equitability within academic publishing, and this entails the creation of environments where traditionally underrepresented cultures can fully participate. This includes presses and alliances that promote publishing and collaboration in specific regions; for example CLACSO, which brings together hundreds of research centres and graduate schools in the social sciences and humanities, predominantly in Latin American countries, or African Minds, which, next to publishing works from African academics or organisations, has conducted in depth research on the state of the university press in Africa. Members also promote publishing in different languages; see, for example, Éditions Science et Bien Commun, a Quebec-based press publishing research by and for francophone countries in the Global South, or meson press, which (next to books in English) is keen to publish and translate media theory books in German.

There is also a focus on providing opportunities to early-career researchers to publish, and not only to publish but to help them directly with the publishing process and familiarise themselves with it. Mattering Press, which originates from a peer-support group of early-career researchers, in particular wants to stimulate those at the beginning of their academic careers, as do publications such as Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry, dedicated to the publication of writings and creative works by degree-seeking students. punctum books is well-known for providing space for the publication of works of so-called “para-academic” theorists and practitioners, often independent or precariously employed researchers or those in so-called “alt-ac” positions. These projects and the collective as a whole are dedicated to opening up scholarship to publics that are new or currently underserved, including those writing on niche topics or conducting experimental research for which the commercial publishing market doesn’t always provide a space.

3. Ethics of care

One of the things for which the Radical OA Collective stands out is its members’ focus on the ethics and politics of publishing. For example, many initiatives foreground an ethics of care, as part of which publishing is understood as a relational practice, highlighting and caring for the relationships involved throughout the publishing process, from authors, editors and reviewers to typesetters, copy-editors, indexers and beyond. This involves, amongst others, paying, rewarding or otherwise acknowledging people fairly for their labour wherever possible, while ensuring that the efforts of volunteers are not exploited or overly relied upon. Well aware of the high amounts of volunteer labour that academic-led initiatives depend on, the collective has made this one of its focal points, writing about and discussing the diverse forms of labour academic publishing relies upon, arguing for it to be valued more in various ways (that are not necessarily monetary).  A focus on labour issues is all the more important in a predominantly commercial publishing environment, given the large amounts of academic volunteer labour (from peer reviewing to editing, to liking and bookmarking and building relationships in exchange for usage data in SSRNs) that is needed to sustain it and maintain the exorbitant profits its stakeholders have come to expect.

The Radical OA Collective therefore seeks to redirect this volunteer labour where possible towards more progressive forms of publishing, for example by shifting it away from commercial profit-driven publishers and gifting it to developing not-for-profit open access projects instead. Related to this is a commitment to taking time and care with regard to the published object itself, something that is often lacking in profit-oriented modes of publishing. But perhaps most important, as Eileen Joy of punctum books writes, is for the collective to care for “ourselves and each other” in the face of marketised cultures of higher education that require researchers to work long hours and think of themselves as “brands”:

“This would be to think of Community, or the Collective, as a sort of ‘mutual admiration society’, but also as a Convalescent Ward, in which ‘taking care’ (of ourselves and each other) would be more important than ‘performing’ according to so-called ‘professional’ standards and protocols.”

Next to bringing together this community of people eager to change publishing, to make it better and more just, the collective wants to support other academics eager to set up their own presses and projects, or those disillusioned with the commercial solutions currently on offer. We share advice and offer support from those within the community who have already gained experience with publishing in this manner and are willing to help others in a horizontal and non-competitive manner. We have started to formalise this through the creation of an information portal with links to resources on funding opportunities for open access books, open-source publishing tools, guidelines on editing standards, ethical publishing and diversity in publishing, and OA literature useful to not-for-profit publishing endeavours. We want to turn this into a toolkit for not-for-profit publishers in the future (and this will be of use not only to academic-led presses, but hopefully also to university presses, and library-run and society publishers, for example). We have also set up a directory of academic-led presses, to help legitimise this form of publishing as a “model” and make scholars aware that there are publishing alternatives out there.

If you run a not-for-profit OA publishing initiative or are interested in starting your own scholar-led publishing project, we encourage you to join the Radical OA mailing list and help us further build this supportive and inclusive publishing environment.

Open Textbook Network: The Power of Community

Open education means providing greater access to knowledge and learning. It also means significant institutional change, something that takes time and concerted effort to be successful. The Open Textbook Network (OTN) is a community of higher education leaders dedicated to … Continue reading

Tolerance: Student Perspectives

“We produced translations for Tolerance in a small group, made up of the 2nd year students in my college. We were given the French copies of two texts, produced our own translations, and then all met with our tutor to … Continue reading

The Queer Sound of the Dandiya Queen, Falguni Pathak

co-edited by Praseeda Gopinath and Monika Mehta

Our listening practices are discursively constructed. In the sonic landscape of India, in particular, the way in which we listen and what we hear are often normative, produced within hegemonic discourses of gender, class, caste, region, and sexuality. . . This forum, Gendered Soundscapes of India, offers snapshots of sound at sites of trans/national production, marketing, filmic and musical texts. Complementing these posts, the accompanying photographs offer glimpses of gendered community formation, homosociality, the pervasiveness of sound technology in India, and the discordant stratified soundscapes of the city. This series opens up for us the question of other contexts in India where sound, gender, and technology might intersect, but, more broadly, it demands that we consider how sound exists differently in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Afghanistan. How might we imagine a sonic framework and South Asia from these locations? —Guest Editors Praseeda Gopinath and Monika Mehta

For the full introduction to the forum, click here.

To read all of the posts in the forum, click here.

The late 1990s was a pivotal time for activism around queerness in India. The violent response of the Hindu right to Deepa Mehta’s Fire (1998), a film portraying a romantic and sexual relationship between two women, prompted widespread debate on the question of censorship generally and of sexual-minority rights in particular. By rendering homosexuality explicit in its visuals and dialogues, and charting a linear trajectory of queerness—the protagonists move from unhappiness to happiness, denial to acceptance—Fire valorizes “coming out.” In the film, as in liberal strands of LGBT activism, it matters not only that one is out, but that one is seen as such. The premium placed on visibility in this formulation is undercut by the “queer” figure of Falguni Pathak. A tomboyish singer with a high-pitched voice, Pathak shot to fame with her debut album Yaad Piya Ki Aane Lage in the same year that Fire was released in India. Her performances mobilize disparate, even contradictory, signs of gender and sexuality at once, inviting us to examine the relationship between visuality and aurality in constructing queerness.

Falguni Pathak’s stardom is typically understood in the context of economic liberalization and the reconfiguration of Indian public culture that followed. The 1990s boom in the music industry was facilitated by the spread of satellite television, which gave non-film singers a new platform and a new set of audiences. Pathak’s “cute” and catchy love songs circulated endlessly on television countdown shows, turning her into an unlikely sensation. I say “unlikely” because Pathak’s apparent tomboyishness seemed at odds with the hyper-femininity and heteronormativity of the narratives in her music videos. Romantic quests, schoolgirls giddy with love, feminine bonding over make-up and men—these are standard features of Pathak’s videos, as is her own smiling presence as the singer-narrator. Through her gestures and lyrics, she comments on the lovesick teen’s plight and steps in occasionally to comfort or help the young girl, as in her first hit,  “Chudi.”

For instance, in “Maine payal hai chhankai” (“The tinkling of my anklets,” 1999) she cheers on a group putting on a dance and puppet show for a school function. In songs like “Chudi/Yaad piya ki aane lagi” (“Bangles/I remember my lover,” 1998), “O piya” (“O beloved,” 2001), and “Rut ne jo bansi bajai” (“The music of the weather,” 2012) she is portrayed as a pop star.

The singer-as-pop-star was a common trope in early Indipop music videos (Kvetko). But Pathak dressed very differently than other pop stars. Whether on or off screen, she was (and is) always in men’s clothing, with a short, unfussy haircut and little make-up. Pathak’s style was mirrored on occasion by a minor character in her music videos. (“Chudi” includes a tomboyish school girl who struggles with the dance moves her friends choreograph.) Thus, Pathak’s visible presence in her videos brushed against the pitch, timbre, and style of her singing, which together articulated a hyper-feminine pop sensibility.

This sense of a “mismatch” (Fleeger) continues in Pathak’s contemporary performances. She is the most sought-after vocalist for Navratri festivities in Mumbai each year. On each night of this nine-day long Hindu festival, the “Queen of Dandiya” appears on stage dressed in a brightly colored kurta, vest, and trousers, and sings traditional Gujarati songs and hymns. The women in her audience dress more conventionally and more elaborately, in saris, salwaar kameez, and ghaghra-cholis. They dance in circles, performing recognizable garba moves. Meanwhile, Falguni Pathak saunters around the stage, engaging cheerfully with her fellow musicians and fans. Neither Pathak’s clothes nor her unfeminine dance moves bother the revelers as they dance the night away. For example, note how Pathak sways and rocks to the beat 34 seconds into this lively 2012 stage performance of Suneeta Rao’s hit song “Pari hun mein.”

Falguni Pathak’s temple performances at other times of the year are similar. They draw huge crowds unconcerned with the apparent mismatch between sound and image in her star persona. She tends to be as immersed in the devotional songs she sings as her audience. But her movements, plain clothes, and floppy hair-style make her look more like the male percussionists who accompany her, rocking and whipping their heads from side to side as they keep the beat, than the middle-class women clapping and singing along.

Performative traditions of mimicry and cross-dressing abound in India. But Pathak’s gender performance does not align with those religious, folk, and filmic traditions (and tropes) because it never registers as masquerade. The very casualness of her look, the fact that she dresses in t-shirt and trousers in all of her public appearances, suggests that this is not a temporary or theatrical adoption of a gender role. When asked in interviews why she eschews traditionally feminine clothing, Pathak always responds that she never has worn anything other than pants and t-shirts and is comfortable as she is. There were certainly other pop stars in the 1990s whose musical performances had masculine elements to them. Recall, for instance, Shweta Shettty’s suited look in “Johnny Joker” (1993). But none of Pathak’s peers sported a butch look as consistently and nonchalantly as she did—and none of them sang in as saccharine a voice. After six decades of Lata Mangeshkar’s vocal hegemony in Hindi cinema, such a “sweet,” contained, and unadorned voice has come to represent ideal Indian femininity. Pathak sounds charming and benign in her songs and interviews, but she does not dress the part.

Pathak’s challenging of conventional gender norms through her appearance and through the fact that she has never been married raises the specter of queerness in public discourse. But even that is difficult to pin down. Popular commentators and fans sometimes suggest that she looks like Kiran Bedi, a high-ranking (retired) police officer who enjoys celebrity status, making it hard to read the masculine details of Pathak’s persona as “gay.” Even as she is a queer icon (Giani), Pathak never comments on her sexuality or love life. She either evades questions about relationships or simply states that she is single. Where some celebrities come out publicly or keep alive innuendoes about their sexuality (Singh), she treats it as a non-issue. All in all, what we get in Falguni Pathak’s music videos and star persona is a queerly gendered performance that seems both utterly “natural” (because it seems comfortable and casual) and profoundly mismatched.

To be clear, my argument is not so much that Falguni Pathak looks or sounds queer. The latter point is as hard to prove as the former is easy. If, for just a second, we manage to shut out of our mind’s eye the image of Pathak singing, her voice sounds thoroughly conventional. She sings in a traditional idiom, of traditional themes. No matter how intently I listen, no “queer timbre” (Bonenfant, Chaves Dasa), no “butch throat” (Glasberg) reaches out to touch me. Thus on the one hand, Pathak, like the other “mismatched women” Jennifer Fleeger writes about, confounds heteronormative expectations about gender and sexuality. On the other, her voice eludes “queer listening” (Bonenfant). What do we do with a queer figure who doesn’t sound queer? How might we understand her voice vis-à-vis queerness in Indian public culture? How do her live performances today continue to disrupt the emphasis on visibility in queer studies and politics—that is, the fixation on visual representations and “coming out” of the closet? Finally, how might Pathak’s “vocalic body” (Connor) help us conceive of the intersection of aurality and queerness in South Asian public culture?

Falguni Pathak intervened in a cultural field that was just beginning to deal with LGBT visibility. This becomes apparent when we remember that the 1990s was a period not just of economic liberalization but of vibrant queer activism as well. Pathak’s non-feminine image was startling for a pop star, but her voice was familiar and “good.” Her safe sound allowed her to push the boundaries of desire in televisual representations of the time. But it did more than that, too. The disjuncture between her feminine voice and butch look was critical to the complex landscape of desire her music videos evoked. It created space for ambiguity and incongruity amid charged debates about alternative sexual identities.

In “Main teri prem diwani/Indhana winva” (“I am madly in love with you,” 2001), Pathak stars as the neighbor to whom the protagonist turns for advice in matters of love. In an amazingly campy move, Pathak urges the young woman to seduce her lover by donning outfits inspired by Moulin Rouge (2001), specifically the song “Lady Marmalade” (00:36-00:55), and The Mummy Returns (2001) (1:59-2:03). Queerness is also writ large in “Meri chunnar udd udd jaye” (My scarf flies away, 2000), where Pathak appears as the beloved friend of a young girl in exile. The girl misses her friend intensely and attempts to recreate the dance moves and games she played with her older friend, this time with another mysterious woman who steps out of a painting.

Men’s roles in this and other Falguni Pathak music videos are ambiguous at best (Giani). Thus, despite the happy ending to the teen love stories, what lingers is Pathak’s simultaneous disruption and enabling of straight romance. This is why she is remembered fondly as a queer icon, even as the music scene in India has moved on from the “cuteness” of the 1990s. She offered LGBT audiences a way to read and revel in non-normative desires (Giani), without completely unseating “traditional” ways of living and loving.

The broader lesson in Falguni Pathak’s performances is that we cannot think of visuality apart from aurality, and vice versa. No matter how hard NBC’s “The Voice” tries to convince us (Tongson), we cannot in fact understand the sound of a singer’s voice as separate from the image of her as a performer and the contexts in which she emerges on the scene. It is not Pathak’s tomboyish appearance so much as the apparent disjuncture between that look and her voice that is key. What is queer about her voice is the look of it.

Featured Image: Falguni Pathak’s classic pose.

Pavitra Sundar is Assistant Professor of Literature at Hamilton College, where she teaches courses on global film and literature. Her scholarly interests span the fields of cinema studies, sound studies, postcolonial literary and cultural studies, and gender-sexuality studies. She is currently completing a book manuscript on the politics of Bollywood film sound and music. Her work has been published in journals such as Meridians, Jump Cut, South Asian Popular Culture, and Communication, Culture, and Critique, as well as in anthologies on South Asian and other cinematic traditions.

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Radical Open Access Website Officially Launched!

We are happy to announce that today marks the official launch of our new and updated website for the Radical Open Access Collective ! Thanks to all our members and those in our expanded communities for making this happen.

Formed in 2015, the Radical OA Collective is a community of scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other open access projects in the humanities and social sciences. We represent an alternative open access ecosystem and seek to create a different future for open access, one based on experimenting with not-for-profit, scholar-led approaches to publishing. You can read more about the philosophy behind the collective here: https://radicaloa.co.uk/philosophy/

As a collective, we offer mutual reliance and support for each other’s projects by sharing the knowledge and resources we have acquired. Through our projects we also aim to provide advice, support and encouragement to academics and other not-for-profit entities interested in setting up their own publishing initiatives. The current website contains a Directory of academic-led presses, which showcases the breadth and rich diversity in scholar-led presses currently operating in an international context and across numerous fields, and an Information Portal with links to resources on funding opportunities for open access books, open source publishing tools, guidelines on editing standards, ethical publishing and diversity in publishing, and OA literature useful to not-for-profit publishing endeavours. We will be further developing this into a toolkit for open access publishing in order to encourage and support others to start their own publishing projects. If you run a not-for-profit OA publishing initiative or are interested in starting your own scholar-led publishing project, we encourage you to join the Radical OA mailing list and get involved with the discussion!

Please do get in touch if you would like further information on the project or would like your publishing project to be involved.

Open Access Week 2017: Tolerance

  It has been exciting to see how much interest our Tolerance volume has provoked since its publication. We initially took up the project in order to show support for our colleagues in France and to help the anthology of … Continue reading

Deux siècles de protestantisme en Haïti (1816-2016). Implantation, conversion et sécularisation

Auteurs : Collectif d’écriture sous la direction de Vijonet Demero et Samuel Regulus

Date de parution : 27 octobre 2017

En cas de problème d’accès, écrire à info@editionscienceetbiencommun.org.

Résumé :

Comment le protestantisme s’est-il développé en Haïti? Quelle est la contribution du protestantisme à l’histoire et à la société haïtienne? Comment se situent les églises réformées face aux enjeux de la sécularisation et de la mondialisation? Aborder ces questions sans complaisance est essentiel pour l’avenir du protestantisme en Haïti et c’est ce que propose ce livre issu du colloque du Bicentenaire du protestantisme organisé par l’Institut universitaire de Formation des Cadres (INUFOCAD) du 15 au 17 août 2016 à Port-au-Prince, sous les auspices de la Fédération protestante d’Haïti.

Illustration de couverture : design de Djossè Roméo Tessy, photographie d’Anderson Pierre

  • ISBN ePub : 978-2-924661-32-1
  • ISBN du livre imprimé : 978-2-924661-31-4

Pour acheter le livre au Canada, par chèque ou virement bancaire : écrire à inf0@editionscienceetbiencommun.org.

Le livre est aussi disponible à la Librairie du Quartier, 1120, avenue Cartier, Québec G1R 2S5  (418) 990-0330 et à la librairie ZONE de l’Université Laval (https://www.zone.coop/) (418) 656-2600.

Pour le commander en ligne (des frais de port de 9 $ s’ajouteront) :


Version papier ou ePub



Gendered Soundscapes of India, an Introduction

**This post was co-authored by forum co-editors Praseeda Gopinath and Monika Mehta

A note on the collection: Our original Call For Posts was for “Gendered Sounds of South Asia,” as we hoped to use this de-center India and explore terrain beyond cinema.  However, the submissions that we received compelled us to recalibrate the framing of this forum, which will now focus on cinema and sound in India. It occurred to us once we received the pitches that there were structural reasons for the paucity of submissions on both South Asia and sound beyond cinema. The listservs on which the CFP circulated as well as the ways in which the CFP framed sound shaped the submissions. Intersecting sound with gender immediately invokes the female voice, since gender still signals the female. This invocation leads to the next term, “Indian film,” which dominates the region. That said, it is also possible that gender may not be a key lens for analyzing sound in current work on South Asia; noise regulation, caste, religion, ethnicity, and region might be more salient at the moment. We curated the current forum, “Gendered Sounds of India” to expand the terrain of what constitutes sound and voice in India, and through this means, these articles also offer new modes of listening.

Bow Bazar Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, 2011, Image by Flickr user Lorenzo, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Praseeda Gopinath: My childhood is lived soundscapes. It’s revelatory to think about memory and self through the paradigm of sound, because it is only now that I realize that some of my abiding memories are shaped by sound, film, and voice. Urban Indian childhood meant inhabiting layers of sound, and learning to separate and parse the various layers in order of situational importance: the call of the ice-cream man from the call of the peanut-seller, depending on what you were in the mood for; raucous playful yelling of friends from your mother yelling to check on where you were; and of course, the ubiquitous sound of radios and televisions from various homes in your neighborhood. Your ear heard the professional cadences of the radio announcer or television announcements, but you were waiting for the film’s songs you liked, or the dialogue delivery of your favorite actor. If we heard Amitabh Bachchan’s distinctive baritone—the undisputed and worshipped Hindi film star of 70s-80s—we immediately stopped whatever we were playing at and listened to his voice as it drifted out on to the aether. He was the gendered voice of power and glamor emanating from invisible radios or televisions and seeping into our childish brains, defining sound, stardom, and most importantly, cool.

Our listening practices are discursively constructed. In the sonic landscape of India, in particular, the way in which we listen and what we hear is often normative, produced within hegemonic discourses of gender, class, caste, region, and sexuality. Today’s entry in the forum, Claire Cooley’s entry on the The Lor Girl (1933)–a film collaboration between Iranian expatriates and The Imperial Film Company–unpacks the ways in which the gendered voice and accent of the female protagonist become symptomatic of modernity in Bombay and Tehran. Class and modernity are rendered through the transformation of her voice and accent. In the process, gendered modernity is also produced and circulated through the film’s soundscape; The Lor Girl offers a lesson in listening, what and how to listen to gendered voice, sound, and accent. It reveals how the ear is trained to identify class, region, and the modern, discourses that continue to shape listening practices in contemporary India.

Similarly, Pavitra Sundar’s article on Falguni Pathak, a sought-after vocalist for heternormative and religiously-inflected Navaratri celebrations, reveals how Pathak’s vocalic body challenges heteronormative ideas about sexuality and gender and consequentially heteronormative listening practices. Sundar asks us to think about how “queerness” might sound in Indian public culture, and indeed, how this aural queerness might not necessarily align with the “queer timbre” theorized in Euro-American queer theory. Perhaps what seems most intriguing about Sundar’s analysis of Pathak is not just her elusive queer voice, but that it is this elusiveness, Pathak’s ability to slip between and across heteronormative aural spaces, that makes her vocal queerness both pervasive and difficult to label.

Women’s Radio Listening Group, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, Image by Flickr User UK Department for International Development, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Monika Mehta: When I think of sound, an image surfaces of my mama (maternal uncle) reclining on a bed and cradling a transistor by his ear. The time is the late 1970s and the location, Railway Colony, Kishan Ganj, New Delhi, my maternal grandparents’ home. Thinking back, the transistor must have provided a sense of privacy, perhaps, even facilitated cultivation of a private self in a middle-class, bustling joint family; in such a family, home was not a private place. For better or worse, most things were shared. These shared objects included the radio, and later, the television, both of which were ensconced in the living room and functional, bulky, and ornamental, signaling middle-class status.

Unlike the radio and television, the transistor and the two-in- one were portable; they could be moved and held. The two-in- one was often transported to a grill-window of a bedroom where another mama (maternal uncle) loved listening to Talat Mahmood songs on it. While most Hindi song aficionados were fans of the playback singer Mohammed Rafi, he preferred Mahmood’s voice. For him, the cassette player enabled the cultivation of pleasure and fandom. What appears curious now was that it was mostly, if not exclusively, the male members of the family who were attached to the transistors and the two-in- ones. Similarly, in bazaars, on sidewalks, nears shops, men would cluster around these audio technologies, riveted by a cricket commentary, or at times, enjoying film songs. These technologies produced a sense of male privacy at home, and homosociality outside.

Technology is often imagined as a neutral entity, unaffected and unrelated to socio-economic divisions. Priva Jaikumar and Ronit Ghosh’s posts challenge this normative assumption by examining the relations amongst sound technology, gender, and the public.

Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, 2008, Image by Flick user Paul Weller (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Jaikumar discusses how the adoption of sync sound recording by Bombay filmmakers in the 1990s generates new forms of labor that are divided along lines of class and gender.  Bouncers and sound-security personnel are drawn from lower-class migrant men, whereas the sound artists and engineers are recruited from the middle and upper classes. In both cases, women are excluded from working with or on sound. Ghosh demonstrates how the introduction of new recording technology in India in the 1930s privatizes listening experiences.  If the consumption of live music occurred in public spaces, which could only be accessed by male audiences, then this new technology, not only provided a new listening experience, but made music available to middle-class female audiences.  Both Ghosh and Jaikumar’s posts show that consumption, or the labor of sound in public, is masculinized whereas private sounds, or ones that require private labor, are feminized.

On a closing note, the posts offer snapshots of sound at sites of trans/national production, marketing, filmic and musical texts. Complementing these posts, the accompanying photographs offer glimpses of gendered community formation, homosociality, the pervasiveness of sound technology in India, and the discordant stratified soundscapes of the city. This series opens up for us the question of other contexts in India where sound, gender, and technology might intersect, but more broadly, it demands that we consider how sound exists differently in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Afghanistan. How might we imagine a sonic framework and South Asia from these locations?

To read all of the posts in the forum, click here.

Praseeda Gopinath is an associate professor of English at SUNY Binghamton and author of Scarecrows of Chivalry: English Masculinities after Empire (University of Virginia Press, 2013).

Monika Mehta is an associate professor of English at SUNY Binghamton and author of  Censorship and Sexuality in Bombay Cinema (University of Texas press, 2011).

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