Swapnil Rai is an assistant professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Media at the University of Michigan. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she works at the intersection of media studies, critical cultural communication, women’s and gender studies, and industry studies. Focusing on the Global South, she investigates how transnational networked cultures intersect with the media industries and with questions of policy, geopolitics and audiences.

Tell me about your work on the Miss World pageant.

The Miss World Pageant, held in Bangalore, India, in 1996 and organized by Indian megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s company ABCL, was a big step in the evolution of essential institutions that helped the broader realm of entertainment. My work looks at what the Miss World contest did for the Indian entertainment industry structurally. I focus on how it added a new crop of global beauty queens to Bollywood, who went on to embody and symbolize the rapid globalization of India and the nation-state itself as a worldwide brand.

Read the full conversation at Michigan News.