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Meeta Rani Jha

meetarani65@berkeley.edu

Project: Transnational Feminine Imaginaries in Bombay Cinema Experience

My research aims to interrogate the production of Diasporic South Asian femininities in the San Francisco Bay area through theoretically guided empirical research into Bombay cinema cultural practices. Bombay cinema is popularly known as Bollywood as well as Indian or Hindi cinema. I will build and expand on my past research, which scrutinized everyday cinema practices in Britain. In particular I focused on South Asian women’s negotiation of transnational gendered and sexual power relations and I argued that Bombay cinema engagement for British South Asian women results in complicated forms of agency and structure of feelings.

An analysis of Indian cinema consumption in San Francisco Bay area will be located within a complex set of political, historical and economic processes. By comparing the formation of diasporic femininities in two different national contexts in terms of ‘race blindness’ in the US and ‘race-emphasis’ in the UK, I will illuminate the intersecting dynamics of race, class, sexuality and religion in production of transnational femininities. Moreover, I hope to also highlight the divisions and solidarities in formations of two south Asian Diasporas with different migration and colonial histories.

Interview accounts with women in the San Francisco Bay area will be used to examine the ways in which research participants interpret both the cinematic content and the contexts, in which the films are watched, enjoyed and critiqued. Bombay cinema practice becomes a site for production of not only postcolonial diasporic imagining of feminine and masculine identities but it also fulfils desires for a decolonising imaginary. I introduce the notion of ‘Bombay cinema-talk’ to refer to a shared symbolic and cultural language for diasporic south Asians which I will use as an analytical tool to explore different power relation that women mediate in the context of their private and public lives in order to subvert and transform local and transnational dominant meanings. In this sense, I argue that the Bombay cinema screen becomes a site of transnational popular imaginary upon which memories are projected and identifications are made but also where social power relations are opened up for critical scrutiny and assessment.


Biography

Meeta Rani Jha received her Ph.D. in Sociology (The Emotional Politics of Bombay Cinema and the British Asian Imaginary) from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Since then she has taught cultural theory, sociology of gender and culture, youth cultures, ‘race and identity’ and globalisation at a number of London Universities (Westminster, UEL, LSE). Before entering Academia, Meeta had worked in the non-profit sector in Manchester (UK) on issues of low pay, homeworking, racial justice and domestic violence. As ‘Black Rights Worker’ at a Law Centre, she was responsible for identifying and developing services on access to legal and social justice for black communities. She also worked as a community organizer in San Francisco. Recently, as a post-doctoral research fellow at Working Lives Research Institute (W.L.R.I), Meeta collaboratively researched the relationship of black workers to trade unions. In particular, she explored the history of black and south Asian workers through feminist and community activism in west London, whilst doing fieldwork in Southall. The aim of the research was to explore the significance of identity and community networks in accessing employment rights.