Spring Colloquium: "Imaging Cosmopolitanism: Immaterial Labor and Delhi, India’s Emerging Youth Culture Industry"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 9:30am
130 McNeil Building

Please join us for the 2015 Urban Studies Graduate Student-Faculty Colloquium Series, in the Urban Studies Office: 130 McNeil Building, 3718 Locust Walk. The series provides an opportunity for graduate students who are affiliated with the Urban Studies Certificate program to come together and share their work, and get feedback from a discussant who represents a different discipline from their own. Breakfast included!

Author: Gabriel Dattatreyan, Penn's Graduate School of Education and Department of Anthropology

Discussant: Brent Luvaas, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Drexel University.

Abstract: This paper explores how the youth culture industry is harnessing the performances of young migrants who participate Delhi’s burgeoning youth subcultural worlds of hip hop dance, skateboarding, and street art.  Specifically, I trace the ways in which young men and women originally from Nepal, the Northeastern states of India, and Bihar, as they participate in culture industry sponsored events, become the subject of image-making projects that connect their very bodies to a futuristic vision of a youthful urban India that celebrates cosmopolitanism even as the city they live in grows increasingly segregated by class (Fernandes, 2004; Waldrop, 2004) and divided by perceptions of racialized difference (McDuie, 2012).  I suggest that their participation in these corporate sponsored events mark one kind of immaterial laboring opportunity that is becoming available to young people who live in the margins of the city as branding agents look to create an affective image of the city that promotes what Michael Hardt (1999) argues is at the heart of immaterial laboring practices in contemporary late capitalism -- “a feeling of ease, well-being, satisfaction, excitement, passion – even a sense of connectedness or community” (95-96).  By focusing on the images and their contexts of their production, I argue for an attention to the ways in which “the conditions for the appropriation of local cultural difference as content” (Mazzarella, 2003:4) reveals how capitalism continues to unfold in India’s capital in the third decade since economic liberalization in ways that create novel arrangements of labor, difference, and aspiration.