Notions of diaspora are constituted out of and help shape popular cultural formations: Dr. Rajinder Dudrah


Dr. Rajinder Dudrah was honored by the Triangle Media Group, UK, as one of the top 50 Global South Asian Achievers for promoting South Asian popular culture and popular Hindi Cinema in the year 2010. His undergraduate degree was in Cultural Studies at the University of Portsmouth (with specialisms in film and media studies and cultural theory), followed by his PhD at the Dept. of Cultural Studies and Sociology, University of Birmingham. Before joining the University of Manchester, where he is currently Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for Screen Studies, he was a Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Portsmouth. Dr. Dudrah shared his ideas with Dr. Sadananda Sahoo, Editor, Roots and Routes.

How do you find the role of popular culture in the diaspora in general? How does the popular culture shape the diaspora, especially in the context of Indian diaspora in U.K.?

In my work, notions of diaspora are constituted out of and help shape popular cultural formations.  Through mass mediated and everyday forms (such as literature, oral cultures, music, films, radio, the internet, theatre - the list could go on), that shift between the homeland, transnational and new places of settlement (themselves often being made anew as a result), important modernist and humanist issues are up for discussion.  Social and cultural identities and variables such as race, class, gender, sexuality, caste, are produced and reproduced in the diaspora setting in and through popular culture and this makes it an exciting and important terrain to engage with and contest.

You have worked on knowledge transfer and the role of culture. How strong are the linkages between culture and economy in the diaspora especially in the multicultural society such as UK? Does this benefit the home country while engaging the diaspora in development?

Knowledge transfer is a relatively new and exciting area in the UK that encourages us to think about how we engage our work with a number of different partners outside the academy.  It’s not just about the academy disseminating its research with users outside the University, but more importantly how our research, especially in the Arts and Humanities, is often informed by relationships, processes of exchange, dialogue and discovery with artists, students, organizations, teachers, activists, the media, and community groups outside the higher education establishment.  My own work around diaspora (how it is made, remade, sustained and developed anew both in its relationship to various homelands, but also in its ability to foster and create an identity of its own), has benefitted from the exchanges and productive interactions (agreements as well as productive intellectual disagreements) with organisations like Punch Records in Birmingham, UK (

What is unique about the bollywood films in the Indian diaspora?

Bollywood films in the diaspora, and from my location and work in the UK at least, are another point of reference, alongside other cinemas such as Hollywood or European, that British South Asians and British Indians also watch and consume.  I find exciting the idea that brown skins and bodies on the large cinematic screens, as well as in the more private spaces of homes via large TV screens and the internet, are giving South Asians access to complex and problematic images, affects, sounds and signifiers about aspects of their social and cultural selves; something that Hollywood or other cinemas are unable to do for them. This would partly explain the huge market base for Bollywood films in the diaspora.  This area of exploration has only recently started to be developed over the past 10-15 years and is ripe for development and intervention.

Tell us something about your new book on “Bollywood Travels: Culture, Diaspora and Border Crossings in Popular Hindi Cinema” recently published by Routledge.

This new book takes off and continues a journey, of sorts, where my first book (Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies, 2006) left off.  A couple of the main questions that ‘Bollywood Travels’ is concerned with is how does popular Hindi cinema travel – both actually as well as imaginatively – to places and audiences around the world, and how can we think of its relationship to the diaspora that does not simply fall foul of simple or easy readings that suggest a one way relationship between the homeland (India) and Bollywood in the diaspora (e.g. the UK or the USA for example)? Are there more interesting and disjunctive ways in which that relationship is played out, and how and where can we track and analyseit?  What are audiences doing with Bollywood in and around the diapsora – both as films and cinema, but also as entertainment and cultural industry and popular culture?  To this end, the book not only analyses and discusses select and key films of the past decade plus that have dealt with issues of diaspora and border crossings in interesting ways (e.g. Veer Zaara, Dostana, and Jhoom Barabaar Jhoom), but it also looks at how Bollywood intersects with, and travels at and through, sites such as dance club cultures, Bollywood live concerts, and through new media social networking sites that appear to be all the rage for Bollywood stars and their fans.

What do you think that a platform like GRFDT can do to promote diaspora studies globally?

It is a real pleasure and heartening to read about GRFDT. Until I received the newsletter I did not know of its existence and the invaluable work that it is doing, so learning about it came as a pleasant surprise.  We need to continue to forge networks and new alliances that will help shed new light on existing debates in diaspora and transnational studies as well as pushing the boundaries to explore and discover new frontiers of research.  For example, with my own grounding and training in film, media and cultural studies, we must always strive to explore and intervene in how diaspora is not only produced and represented textually and contextually, but also be prepared to question further; not least how and when and why do some diaspora texts include and exclude?  What is gained and lost in this process and for whom?  A platform such as GRFDT can do much in helping to sustain a healthy and critical atmosphere of dialogue and dissemination of findings that is crucial in this pursuit.



Interview Date:   Monday, May 07, 2012
Person Name:   Dr. Rajinder Dudrah

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