Ph.D. 2000, NYU; M.A. 1994, University of Pennsylvania; B.A. 1991, Northwestern University.
Office Address: Rufus D. Smith Hall 25 Waverly Place New York, NY 10003
Areas of Research/Interest
Anthropology of Media, Media Industries, Production Cultures, Political Economy, Visual Anthropology/Visual Culture, Cultural Policy, Nationalism, Capitalism, Neoliberalism, Globalization, Postcolonial Theory, Indian Cinema, South Asia
Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema, 2nd edition, Routledge, 2013
Producing Bollywood: Inside the Contemporary Hindi Film Industry, Duke University Press, 2012
Link to Facebook page
Interview with Tejaswini Ganti about the changes in Hindi filmmaking 1995-2010
Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema, Routledge, 2004.
“‘No One Thinks in Hindi Here’: Language Hierarchies in Bollywood.” in Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor, eds. Michael Curtin & Kevin Sanson, University of California Press, 2016.
“Fuzzy Numbers: The Productive Nature of Ambiguity in the Hindi Film Industry,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 35(3), 2015.
“The Politics of Commemorating the Indian Cinema Centenary,” Journal of South Asian Popular Culture, 13(2), 2015.
"Neoliberalism," Annual Review of Anthropology 43, 2014.
"The Value of Ethnography," Media Industries 1(1), 2014.
“Corporatization and the Hindi Film Industry,” in Handbook of Indian Cinemas, eds. K. Moti Gokulsing & Wimal Dissanayake, Routledge Press, 2013
“No Longer a Frivolous Singing and Dancing Nation of Movie-Makers: The Hindi Film Industry and its Quest for Global Distinction," Visual Anthropology 25(4), 2012.
“Sentiments of Disdain and Practices of Distinction: Boundary-Work, Subjectivity, and Value in the Hindi Film Industry,” The Anthropological Quarterly 85(1), 2012.
“The Limits of Decency and the Decency of Limits: Censorship and the Bombay Film Industry,” in Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction, eds. William Mazzarella & Raminder Kaur, Indiana University Press. 2009
"Mumbai vs. Bollywood: The Hindi Film Industry and the Politics of Cultural Heritage in Contemporary India,” in Global Bollywood, eds. Anandam P. Kavoori & Aswin Punathambekar, New York University Press. 2008
“And Yet My Heart Is Still Indian: The Bombay Film Industry and the (H)Indianization of Hollywood,” [Reprint] in Genre, Gender, Race, and World Cinema, ed. Julie F. Codell. Blackwell. 2007
“And Yet My Heart Is Still Indian: The Bombay Film Industry and the (H)Indianization of Hollywood,” in Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, eds. L. Abu-Lughod, F. Ginsburg & B. Larkin. Univ. of California Press. 2002.
“Centenary Commemorations or Centenary Contestations? -- Celebrating a 100 Years of Cinema in Bombay,” Visual Anthropology 11(4), 1998.
Gimme Somethin’ to Dance to! (1995) – about the growing popularity of bhangra music in New York City
"What's in a Name?" CBC News
"The Debate over 'Bollywood'" CBC News
"Movie Lovers We Love: Bollywood Anthropologist Tejaswini Ganti Explains Why There's No Indie Industry in India" Indiewire.com
"Indian film industry (Bollywood) - Perspectives and outlook" MBA Crystal Ball
"Bollywood Sirens" On the Media, National Public Radio
"TIFF 2012: Beyond Bollywood at City to City" thestar.com
"Bollywood's Global Push" Christian Science Monitor, May 31, 2011
Updated October 2014
I was on sabbatical for the 2013-14 academic year during which I embarked upon three new research projects, conducted several fieldwork trips to Bombay, finished some writing projects, and participated in a number of conferences and public lectures about my research. I will give a Keynote Address: “Dewesternizing Production Studies: Lessons from Bollywood” at the international conference - “Featuring Africa: Exploring the Plurality of African Digital Film Cultures” — organized by the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale et Culturelle at the University of Liege, Belgium, on October 3, 2014.
Film Schools and Film Training in India
I began in early 2013 what I anticipate will be a long-term, multi-sited fieldwork project about the development of film schools and film training in India. My initial impetus for this project emerged from my previous fieldwork about the Hindi film industry where I traced its growing processes of formalization and professionalization. My ethnographic focus thus far has been a film school, Whistling Woods International, conceptualized and developed by one of the prominent producer-directors of the Bombay industry, specifically to train personnel to feed into the mainstream film industry. During four research trips to Bombay in 2013 and 2014 where I have met faculty, students, administrators, as well as attended classes on screenwriting, directing, and editing, I am trying to understand what is involved in the process of formalizing knowledge that was previously very tacit, informal, and experiential and transplanting it from a film set into a classroom. I envision expanding the focus to include other film schools in India as well as the numerous short-term for profit film training workshops offered by varied film practitioners throughout Bombay.
Language Ideologies in the Hindi Film Industry
Emerging from my film school fieldwork, observations of contemporary Hindi cinema, as well as my long-term fieldwork about the production cultures of the Hindi film industry, this project examines the relationship between Hindi and English in the Bombay film industry. There are two broad dimensions that I am exploring: the state and status of Hindi linguistic skill within the Hindi film industry; and practices of translation between Hindi and English. I’ve been meeting and interacting with an array of film industry personnel in Bombay who deal centrally with the aforementioned dimensions – from screenwriters to dialect coaches to subtitling and dubbing professionals. With the increasing opportunities and attractions afforded by the Hindi film industry and the growing international profile of “Bollywood,” I am investigating how language and linguistic competence become sites for the elaboration of distinction, the performance of cultural capital, and the enactment of new hierarchies within the Hindi film industry.
Indian Cinema in the United States
I received a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend Fellowship for 2013 to start my research about the social life of Indian cinema in the U.S., which dates back to 1928. This project examines how films, filmmakers, and filmmaking have been implicated in the political, economic, and cultural relations between India and the United States. The larger goal is to produce a social history of Indian filmmaking that broadens and complicates our understanding of the relationship between India and the U.S. and reframes the study of both Indian and Hollywood cinemas. During the summer of 2013, through archival research at the New York Public Library and other sites, I began to unearth the history of the early circulation of Indian films and filmmakers in the U.S, specifically in New York City, but of course there is much more research to be done across a number of archives.
I was asked to be on the editorial board of a new multi-media and open access online journal entitled Media Industries for which I was asked to contribute a short essay for its inaugural issue. My reflection, “The Value of Ethnography” (v.1 no.1) argues that an ethnographic approach to media industries can help us to accomplish three important goals: to diversify the study of media ndustries; to take into account contestations over status and other forms of cultural and symbolic capital that characterize the field of media production; and to be able to critically examine discourses and quantitative data generated by media industries.
My review essay, “Neoliberalism” for the Annual Review of Anthropology has been published in volume 43 of the journal. It examines current anthropological engagements with neoliberalism and explains why the concept has been so attractive for anthropologists since the millennium. For anthropologists, neoliberalism frequently functions as an index of the global political-economic order and allows for a vast array of ethnographic sites and topics to be contained within the same frame. However, I discuss how neoliberalism as an analytical framework can also obscure ethnographic particularities and foreclose certain avenues of inquiry.
I finished revising an article, “The Necessity of Chance: Negotiating Ambiguity and Uncertainty in Commercial Hindi Cinema Production,” which is under review for a special section about speculation and new economic imaginaries in India in the journal Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This article grew out of a presentation that I made at a seminar, “Speculation in India: Seminar on Imaginaries of Indian Economies” organized by the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen in March 2013. In my presentation and subsequent article, I argue that unlike other spheres of contemporary life, which are marked by the dominance of enumerative logics as part of the modern regimes of discipline, governance, and control, mainstream film production is significantly characterized by speculative logics. In large-scale culture industries like “Bollywood” or even Hollywood, I contend that the presence of ambiguity, chance, and uncertainty are necessary and actually critical for the long-term existence of such industries.
My article, “Thinking in English, Speaking in Hindi: The Linguistic Division of Labor in the Hindi Film Industry,” is in press for an edited volume provisionally titled Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor to be published by University of California Press. The volume grows out of an international conference of the same name held at UC-Santa Barbara, which brought scholars of media industries together to discuss a variety of issues having to do with creative labor. In my essay I focus on what seems to be a curious paradox – the spoken language in contemporary Hindi films appears much more diverse and regionally specific than films from earlier decades, at the same time that English has become the virtual lingua franca of production among the elite categories of creative workers [writers, directors, actors, production designers] within the film industry. I argue that changes in language or code choice within Hindi cinema animate very concretely the transformations in the political economy of the Hindi film industry that have taken place since the advent of economic liberalization, thus demonstrating how language plays a critical role in the political economy of a media industry.