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Mixed feelings: Anglo-Indians and the distribution of the sensible in Indian cinema
conference contributionposted on 2014-07-02, 00:00 authored by Glenn D'Cruz
Hollywood, and various regional cinemas in India typically represent Mixed-Race Anglo-Indians as a degenerate community marked by lax morals, alcoholism, and indolence. These stereotypical tropes typically generate indignant protests from members of this miniscule Indian community, and debates about the representation of Anglo-Indians focus on the injustices propagated by such stereotypes. This paper rethinks Anglo-Indian representation in cinema by drawing on Jacques Rancière’s concept of ‘the distribution of the sensible,’ which provides a cartography for understanding how one’s various identity assignations structure sensory experience. In other words those who are marginalized have ways of seeing and hearing from those occupy normative or dominant subject positions, and these differences are best approached in terms of neo-Kantian aesthetic judgment. It also argues, with Rancière, that ‘inequality’ is built into the distribution of the sensible. Drawing on a number of Indian and Hollywood films — including Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) Anjan Dutt’s Bada Din (1998) Ismail Merchant’s Cotton Mary (2000), Bow Barracks Forever (2004) and Harry McClure’s Going Away (2013) — the paper contends that Rancière’s ‘distribution of the sensible’ allows us to think through a politics that is connected to ‘aesthetic judgement’ as well as a politics of differentiation that informs our understanding of the function of minoritarian characters in narrative cinema.