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Sound and South Asia Conference 2016 | Speakers

Jayson Beaster-Jones is an Associate Professor of Music in the Global Arts Studies Program at the University of California, Merced. His second book, Music Commodities, Markets, and Values: Music as Merchandise (2016, Routledge) examines music retail stores as sites of cultural production in contemporary India, focusing in particular upon the kinds of economic and social values that are produced as music is sold, as well as the meanings that accompany music commodities in retail contexts. The project also addresses the cultural and media histories of the Indian music industry, the discourses of piracy and intellectual property, and the social changes that have accompanied India’s economic liberalization reforms. His first book entitled Bollywood Sounds: The Cosmopolitan Mediations of Hindi Film Song (2015, Oxford University Press) explores 70 years of Bollywood film songs and their musical and social meanings. Bollywood Sounds illustrates how the producers of Indian film songs have long mediated a variety of musical styles, instruments, and performance practices to create a uniquely cosmopolitan music genre that has been the dominant popular music genre of India. In addition to co-editing the volume Music in Contemporary Indian Film (2017, Routledge), he has published in the journals EthnomusicologyPopular Music, and South Asian Popular Culture, as well as book chapters in several edited volumes.

Corey K. Creekmur (Associate Professor of Cinematic Arts, English, and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, University of Iowa) focuses on international popular cinema (especially American and South Asian), cross-cultural film genres, and the way in which such films interact with other media (such as music) as well as popular discourses of race, gender, and sexuality. He also teaches courses, derived from the theoretical foundations of cultural studies, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, on the relation between film stars and fans. His work in American literature and popular culture within the Department of English deals with popular genres as well, including detective fiction and comics (newspaper strips, comic books, and graphic novels).  He serves on the editorial advisory board of the journals The Velvet Light TrapBioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, and Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture and is the General Editor of the Comics Culture book series for Rutgers University Press.  He is also currently Secretary of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Vebhuti Duggal is currently a Research Associate at Sarai-CSDS. She was awarded her PhD from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University earlier this year. She has spent some years teaching undergraduate students English literature in constituent colleges of Delhi University. Her research interests include the study of sonic and musical cultures and technologies, piracy and critical theory.

Linda Hess (Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University) writes on the poetry of North India’s great 15th and 16th-century “poet-saints,” their ongoing popularity and influence, and modes of performing their works. Research and teaching interests include poetry of religious experience, gender, performance, and reception of religious texts and practices by people in different social and historical circumstances. Publications include The Bijak of Kabir (translations and essays), Singing Emptiness: Kumar Gandharva Performs the Poetry of Kabir, and articles on interpretation and performance of the Ramayana.

Isabel Huacuja Alonso (Assistant Professor of History, California State University, San Bernardino) focuses on South Asian colonial and postcolonial history and history of media and communications. Her current book project is a transnational historical study of radio broadcasting in Hindi and Urdu, from the late colonial period through the immediate post-independence era in South Asia.

Michele Friedner (Assistant Professor of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Anthropology, Disability Studies, University of Stony Brook) is a medical anthropologist who researches deaf and disabled peoples’ social, moral, and economic experiences in urban areas of India. She analyzes how political economic changes in India create new opportunities and constraints for disabled people in the arenas of employment, education, politics, religion, and everyday life. She also researches how international and domestic development initiatives both help and hinder disabled people in India and elsewhere in the world. Broadly, she is interested in how the categories of disability and deafness enable the creation and circulation of new forms of political, social, and economic value. Dr. Friedner is the author of Valuing Deaf Worlds in urban India (Rutgers, 2015) and her work has appeared in numerous journals including Antipode, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, City & Society, Ethnos, and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, among others.

Neepa Majumdar (Associate Professor of English and Film Studies, University of Pittsburgh) works in star studies, film sound, South Asian early cinema, documentary film, and questions of film history and historiography. Her book Wanted Cultured Ladies Only: Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s to 1950s (University of Illinois Press, 2009) won an Honorable Mention in the 2010 Best First Book Award of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Her essays have appeared in The Canadian Journal of Film StudiesSouth Asian Popular Culture, and Post Script, as well as collections such as The Continuum Companion to Sound in Film and Visual Media (ed. Graeme Harper, 2009), Film Analysis: A Norton Reader (ed. R. L. Rutsky and Jeffrey Gieger, 2005), and Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, (ed. Arthur Knight and Pamela Wojcik, 2001).

Madhuja Mukherjee's (Associate Professor of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, India), primary research involves critical study of the Indian film industry, technological transformations, genre, gender, and public cultures. Recently, she has published extensively on sound of Indian films.  She is the author of the book New Theatres Ltd., The Emblem of Art, The Picture of Success (NFAI: Pune, 2009), and the editor of Aural Films, Oral Cultures, Essays on Cinema from the Early Sound Era (Jadavpur University Press: Kolkata, 2012), and Voices of the Talking Stars, Readings in Gender Studies (Sage, New Delhi, forthcoming). Mukherjee also works as writer, filmmaker and artist. Her first feature-film CARNIVAL (2012), has been screened at international festivals including International Film Festival Rotterdam (2012); and QISSA (2013) written by her (with Anup Singh, director), received the ‘Inalco Jury Award’ for “beautiful script, …” at the 20th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema, France, in 2014, along with other prestigious awards. She is working on her second graphic-novel The Dog Star (supported by IFA, Bangalore). Mukherjee also runs a festival for experimental films and art (Little Cinema International Festival) in Kolkata, India.

Davesh Soneji is Associate Professor in the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at the intersections of social and cultural history, religion, and anthropology. For the past two decades, he has produced research that focuses primarily on religion and the performing arts in South India, but also includes work on gender, class, caste, and colonialism. He is best known for his work on the social history of professional female artists in Tamil and Telugu-speaking South India and is author of Unfinished Gestures: Devadāsīs, Memory, and Modernity in South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012), which was awarded the 2013 Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize from The Association for Asian Studies (AAS). He is also editor ofBharatanāṭyam: A Reader (Oxford University Press, 2010; 2012) and co-editor, with Indira Viswanathan Peterson, of Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in Modern South India (Oxford University Press, 2008). He is presently co-editing another volume entitled Dance and the Early South Indian Cinema (forthcoming). Prof. Soneji has recently held positions as Visiting Professor at the Central University of Hyderabad in India, as well as Le Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS) in Paris. Prior to coming to the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Soneji taught at McGill University in Montreal, Canada for over twelve years. Prof. Soneji is also the co-founder and director of The Mangala Initiative, a non-profit organization centred on social justice issues for hereditary performing artists in South India. He is currently working a new book on the social history of “classical” (Karṇāṭak) music and musical production in South India from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.

Pavitra Sundar (Assistant Professor of Literature and Creative Writing, Hamilton College) teaches courses on non-western film and literature, and gender-sexuality studies. She has contributed essays to the journals Meridians and South Asian Popular Culture as well as various anthologies. She is currently at work on a book manuscript about the politics of sound and music in Bombay cinema.

Nathan Tabor (Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Religion, Western Michigan University) focuses on historical forms of sociability and literary societies in early modern and modern South Asia. Additionally, he also interested in popular Urdu poetry and Islamist literature circulated on the Internet. Currently, he’s finishing up a manuscript on the poetry salon in late Mughal India based on nearly four years of research in North India funded by Wenner-Gren and Fulbright awards. Prior to coming to WMU he has taught at the University of Texas at Austin and served as an instructor and the academic director for UT's Hindi-Urdu Flagship Program during the year abroad in Lucknow, India.

Amanda Weidman (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Bryn Mawr College) is a cultural anthropologist with an area specialization in South Asia. Her previous research in South India examined the creation of South Indian classical music as a high cultural genre in the context of late colonialism, Indian nationalism, and regional politics in South India. This project combined ethnographic research, examination of archival sources, and her own study and performance of South Indian classical music. Her current research focuses on the people who create the music for South Indian popular cinema: playback singers, music directors, and studio musicians. She examines the social organization of the studios and discourses about voice and sound that emerge in recording sessions, relating these to broader politics and cultural movements.