Cultures of indices: Anthropology of Tamil and other cinemas

2009 2009

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Abstract (summary)

My thesis is an enquiry about cinema and difference in the context of Tamil cinema. The enquiry begins with assigning difference its meaning in everyday language as one thing being distinct from another and moves on to the philosophical propositions about difference. This is because claims of distinction in cinema are linked to the fact that the film sign is a unique manifestation of difference, a realization of the world of perceptual reality as different from itself. In re-realizing movement, it reconfigures the existential co-ordinates of time and space most radically. While every discrete film sign or image has this universal quality, the assemblage of such signs, which produces narration, connect them to many ways of fusing fiction and the real, an admixture of signs that may index cultural difference. My understanding of cinema is obtained from the profound philosophical reflections on cinema in the writings of Benjamin, Kracauer and Deleuze. It is strengthened by my understanding of Derrida and Gayatri Spivak. However, for an anthropological understanding of cinema through which the relationship between media and politics can be best studied I forge a theory from the semeiotic of Charles Sanders Peirce. The new film theory suggests (a) that the film sign is primarily indexical, in a non-sublative dialectical relationship with the iconicity of the narration; (b) that there are, fundamentally, three different ways in which the film sign can be conceived.

The new film theory helps to understand, apart from other things, the difference of Tamil cinema as one of the Indian/South Asian cinemas, its particular integration with democratic politics of Tamil Nadu through the DMK films and the phenomenon of the actor playing hero becoming a leader as exemplified by M.G.Ramachandran. The theory has further applications to all emergent visual media.

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology;
Mass communications;
Film studies
0326: Cultural anthropology
0708: Mass communications
0900: Film studies
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Media anthropology; Peirce, Charles Sanders; Ramachandran, M. G.; Semeiotic anthropology; Tamil; Tamil cinema; Tamil popular modernity
Cultures of indices: Anthropology of Tamil and other cinemas
Krishnan, Rajan
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Daniel, E. Valentine
Columbia University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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