Uncivilized language and aesthetic exclusion : language, power and film production in Pakistan
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This study investigates language ideologies and aesthetics in Pakistan through an ethnographic study of the Punjabi film industry, known popularly as “Lollywood.” Punjabi is the mother tongue of about 45 percent of the Pakistani population and the most widely-spoken language in the most politically and economically powerful province, yet it has long been relegated to a subordinate position by hegemonic political and cultural apparati, which give preference to Urdu and English. Punjabi films, like the language, are heavily denigrated by the cultural elites (particularly the English-speaking upper class) as crude and vulgar. While most studies on film and language are textual in nature, this research hopes to join a burgeoning body of ethnographic work on cinema in finding new approaches to understanding film production, film culture, and the relationship of cinema to language politics. This dissertation asks how an ethnographic study of film—and specifically cinematic production—might contribute to a broader understanding of both cultural and linguistic practices. Specifically, I seek to explore the connections that emerge from and inhere in the relationships between the Punjabi language and the aesthetics, representations, solidarities, and social commentaries found in Punjabi popular cinema. Moreover, I argue that an examination of the particular kind of language used in film, the register I call Filmi Punjabi, is key to understanding how these issues are connected. Finally, I seek to explore what happens to a community of analog filmmakers in a rapidly digitizing world; how do they navigate the concurrent technological and aesthetic shifts that often seem to threaten not just their economic opportunities but also their filmmaking praxis and community networks? This project takes the cinema industry as a lens through which to investigate the relationships between issues such as class, ethnicity, and gender, aesthetic and moral hegemonies, and linguistic and cultural practices in contemporary Pakistani Punjab.
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