Indian-American self-representation : transmission of culture through the entertainment medium of film

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Date

2008-12

Authors

Kumar, Meera

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Abstract

This study examined Hindi film representations of people of Indian origin residing outside India, Hollywood film representations of people of Indian ethnicity in America, as well as self-representation in Indian-American films. The researcher used the quantitative methodology of content analysis to examine representations in Hindi and Hollywood films and the qualitative methodology of textual analysis to examine self-representation in Indian-American films. The sample for the content analysis included Hindi films released between 1995 and 2005 and Hollywood films released between 1984 and 2005. The sample for the textual analysis consisted of 10 Indian-American films that were examined as transmissions of culture within their social and historical contexts as well as through available news sources. This study found that the majority of Hindi film depictions of people of Indian origin residing abroad and the majority Hollywood film depictions of people of Indian ethnicity in America had migrated from India. The results also revealed that Hindi films stereotyped, Othered, and marginalized Indians residing outside India and Hollywood films stereotyped, Othered, and marginalized people of Indian ethnicity in America. It also found that Hindi and Hollywood films rarely depicted second-generation Indian Americans. Indian-American films produced mostly by Indian immigrants primarily focused on Indian immigrants and sometimes adhered to Hindi film stereotypes when depicting second-generation Indian Americans. Indian-American films produced mostly by second-generation Indian Americans primarily focused on second-generation Indian Americans. The majority of characters in Hindi, Hollywood, and both immigrant and second-generation Indian-American films were male. Because of the limited representation of Indian Americans in the four activities of communication: surveillance, correlation, transmission of culture, and entertainment (Lasswell, 1948; Wright, 1959), as well as in communications literature, this study of Indian-American representation is an important contribution not only to journalism literature but to the field of journalism itself. It has brought to the forefront a significant but underrepresented group, highlighted this group’s diversity and cultural nuances, revealed how the portrayals of such nuances led to the subversion of stereotypes, and emphasized how through the act of self-representation, the transmission of culture takes place through the entertainment medium of film.

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