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06/21/2023 - 06/21/2023 | Berlin

Lecture: Crying as Political Spectacle: Mythopolitics, Melodrama and Media

The presentation by Prof. Ravi S. Vasudevan (Sarai/Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi/Indien) starts with two scenes featuring political leaders crying in contemporary, post-pandemic India, the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and a key opponent of that time, peasant leader Rakesh Tikait. These scenes raise questions of performativity and authenticity, of truth and sincerity.

The emotional (il) legibility of these scenes is compounded by questions about the truth status of images in social media. Media forensics interrogates digital images for veracity, but evidence does not necessarily challenge prejudice or change opinion. So in addition to considering the truth and reality status of images, we must reflect on the sway genealogies of their iconicity exercise.

Taking the iconic early film, DG Phalke’s Rajah Harishchandra (1913, 1917) and Kamal Swaroop`s 2013 essay film on Phalke, Rangbhoomi, this paper analyses the layered aesthetic of iconic power as it plays out in the sacred city of Banaras, which is also the electoral constituency of Modi. It does this through two conceptual registers: the mythopolitical, a story world retailing cosmologies and origin stories from “olden times;” and melodrama as a mode of excess gesturing to fraught transitions that unsettle subjects, social orders, and the sacred through the lens of victimhood, and a bid to arrive at a felt truth. We trace two paths, one of the Rajah who gives up the world and falls into a state of abjection, the other a triumphalist melodrama of political marginality transcended and power achieved, the story of Narendra Modi and his distinctive imprint on the authoritarian populism of Hindutva. Both stories climax in the funeral pyres of the sacred city of Banaras and a sustained regime of necropolitics.

Ravi Vasudevan is a film and media historian.

The lecture is organised jointly by Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam (ZZF) und Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO).

Information on participating / attending:
Ohne Anmeldung, Eintritt frei.


06/21/2023 15:00 - 06/21/2023 16:30

Event venue:

Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Kirchweg 33
14129 Berlin

Target group:

Scientists and scholars, all interested persons



Subject areas:

History / archaeology, Media and communication sciences

Types of events:

Presentation / colloquium / lecture




Marion Schlöttke



Event is free:


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URL of this event:

attachment icon Einladungs-Poster-Lecture am 21. Juni 2023


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