“Granular Activisms: Women’s Vocality and Multimodality in Rural North India”

Espírito Kashi founder Rajat Nayyar has just published his article “Granular Activisms: Women’s Vocality and Multimodality in Rural North India” in Visual Athropology Review (VAR) journal of American Anthropology Association (AAA). https://doi.org/10.1111/var.12277

It might be of interest especially to those studying voice, women’s vocal traditions, and community-based filmmaking. In it, Rajat theorizes (different forms of) ‘activisms’ that he locates in the materiality of the singing voice(s) rather than in the textual and translational analysis of the songs, as scholars working on women’s “folk songs” in India have traditionally done. 

For those who are unable to find a copy of VAR 38:2 (Fall issue) through a library, please write to us at espiritokashi@gmail.com and we would be happy to share a pdf.

Abstract:

In this article, I reflect on the collaborative multimodal ethnography that I conducted in Badhuli village with Aaji, a lower-caste storyteller, singer, healer, and rice farmer. In addition to highlighting Aaji’s life story and her Bhojpuri singing practice, the research project involved facilitating performative spaces for women to exchange, rehearse, film, and digitally share their vocal repertoires with other community members across gender, caste, religion, and generation. Through an analysis of multimodal ethnographic materials, this article argues that rural north Indian women’s vocal traditions and performances are more than “everyday acts of resistance” (Scott 1985). Specifically, I combine Barthe’s concept of “grain” of voice (1977) with recent scholarship on political activism and theories of voice and vocality (Eidsheim 2008; Schlichter 2011). I propose the new notion of “granular activism,” that is, grounded in the intermingling and exchange of women’s vocal traditions. I conclude by demonstrating Aaji’s radically activist role in re-imagining Bhojpuri inter-gender and inter-caste dynamics through vocal traditions.

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