Unsettling India

Affect, Temporality, Transnationality

Unsettling India

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 19 illustrations Published: January 2015

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Media Studies > TV

In Unsettling India, Purnima Mankekar offers a new understanding of the affective and temporal dimensions of how India and “Indianness,” as objects of knowledge production and mediation, circulate through transnational public cultures. Based on over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in New Delhi and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mankekar tracks the sense of unsettlement experienced by her informants in both places, disrupting binary conceptions of homeland and diaspora, and the national and transnational. She examines Bollywood films, Hindi TV shows, advertisements, and such commodities as Indian groceries as interconnected nodes in the circulation of transnational public cultures that continually reconfigure affective connections to India and what it means to be Indian, both within the country and outside. Drawing on media and cultural studies, feminist anthropology, and Asian/Asian American studies, this book deploys unsettlement as an analytic to trace modes of belonging and not-belonging.


"Mankekar has produced a work that deserves to be read widely by scholars working on India, globalization, and consumer culture theory. She offers deep insights into the notions of Indian identity and nationhood. The book is a fascinating account and can help researchers to understand how diverse sources of data should be deployed, and synthesized with theory to produce a high-quality ethnographic work. This is an important book that should help to broaden the discussions on identity and globalization. The lucid style and the wide canvas make the book riveting." — Rohit Varman, Consumption Markets & Cultures

"The kind of research this book entails is challenging—filled with shifts in location and the frequent need to fill in the silences of the unspeakable. In a book about destabilizing categories, Unsettling India is difficult to classify: accessible yet challenging, theoretical as well as empirical, drawing global concerns down to the microcosm of a shopping cart. Mankekar seeins equally at home in media studies and ethnography, in Kanpur and San Jose, and while she seeks to avoid writing a text that leaves readers with a sense of a world in crisis, her well-tuned gaze at the swirling present produces an illuminating vertigo." — Heather Hindman, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

"Purnima Mankekar’s monograph, Unsettling India, is a dazzling example of the melding of ethnography and theory at its best. It is replete with detailed ethnographic vignettes, rich theoretical insights, and methodological, analytical, and conceptual innovation.... Mankekar’s work—located within and across fields of South Asian diaspora studies, globalization and transnationalism, media studies, critical racial and ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and feminist theory—portends and provides a model for the future of anthropological research and a rethinking of the traditional ethnography."  — Anneeth Kaur Hundle, Anthropological Quarterly

"Unsettling India, in its masterful assemblage of materials and its theoretical sophistication, succeeds in reminding us that there is something indeed at stake in how we all choose to become global." — Sandhya Shukla, American Anthropologist

"The volume pays a great deal of attention to class distinctions, race perceptions, and gender roles, and to how these play out in the creation and maintenance of nationalistic affect. . . . The book is highly recommended." — John C. Hawley, Pacific Affairs

"Unsettling India offers a conceptually rich, ethnographically sensitive, intellectual engagement with several areas of current scholarly interest. In addition, it is an exemplary work on how to conduct politically informed grounded research that speaks to ethical concerns while advancing scholarship in important and instructive ways." — Ramaswami Harindranath, Asian Studies Review

"[Mankekar] builds on the work of feminist cultural geographers to show how India is a process rather than an essence, produced as meaningful through the traffic in peoples, commodities and media. . . . This book is an important contribution to theorising affect and temporality, two areas experiencing growing interest in the social sciences, and brings a very timely fresh concept to understandings of transnationalism, that of ‘unsettling.'" — Amanda Gilbertson, South Asia

"Unsetting India provides a powerful, innovative account of India as a mobile repository of 'affect and temporality' after its neoliberal turn. Purnima Mankekar brings together ethnographic vignettes, analyses of film and television texts, theories of affect, diaspora, gender, race, and sexuality to examine how change and shifts are experienced by Indians both in diaspora and in the homeland."
— Inderpal Grewal, author of Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms

"Purnima Mankekar confirms her standing as one of the major anthropological voices addressing nation, transnationalism, media, and diaspora with this pathbreaking book. Combining the study of diverse media, Mankekar also reverses many cliches about location, affect, flow, and time which dominate the anthropological literature. Written in beautifully accessible prose, this book will fascinate anthropologists of media, globalization and their structures of feeling in India and beyond." — Arjun Appadurai, author of The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition

"In this stunning ethnographic rendition of India and its global discontents, Purnima Mankekar unmoors static notions of nation, intimacy, citizenship and belonging through an analysis of mass media and public culture. She focuses on diverse spaces and texts, positioning them amid the busy traffic of people, ideas, capital, and energies within and outside India. She also proposes a trenchant and effective methodological approach to the study of affect more broadly. Unsettling India is a triumph." — Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Purnima Mankekar is Professor in the Departments of Gender Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India and coeditor of Media, Erotics, and Transnational Asia, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

1. Unsettlement 1

2. Moving Images: Reconceptualizing Indianness in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge 39

3. Affective Objects: India Shopping in the San Francisco Bay Area 71

4. Transnational Hindi Television and the Unsettlement of Indianness 108

5. Global India and the Production of Moral Subjects 144

6. Aspirational India: Impersonation, Mobility, and Emplacement 188

Coda. Unsettling Nations 229

Notes 243

References 267

Notes 291
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5836-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5822-0
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