Episode One: All The Factory’s A Stage

But it was not capitalism alone that determined the workers’ social life both in the factory and the colony.
  The Ramayana was written between the 7th and 4th century BCE, and its composition is traditionally ascribed to Valmiki. However, as shown in the previous essay, the Indian epic tradition has remained perennially contemporary ever since it first emerged. For instance, over the course of past several centuries, the Ramayana has been reinvented and repurposed in a range of different language and literary cultures across vast swathes of South and Southeast Asia. Even though Valmiki’s composition is the oldest known composition, it is not an ur-text by any means. Instead, as A.K. Ramanujan felicitously averred, there is no Ramayana as such, only its different “tellings.” There are anywhere between three hundred and three thousand Ramayanas, likely even more, and Valmiki’s telling is only one of them. Moreover, these tellings are not always “textual,” and likewise the devotees’ relationship to… Read More...

First as Farce, Then as Tragedy

Hindu nationalism is the modality in which the crisis of postcolonial capitalism is lived.
A few months ago, the BJP-led rightwing government in India decided to broadcast an old cult adaptation of the ancient literary epic Ramayana on national television. When this TV adaptation was first broadcast during 1987-88, it played a momentous role in catalyzing the emergence of the Hindu rightwing, represented by its political outfit, the relatively newly formed BJP. The TV adaptation was watched by around 80-100 million people across the country. In the Hindi-speaking belt of North India, the TV adaptation’s kitschy valorization of the Hindu kingdom of Rama, the divine protagonist of Ramayana, gained unprecedented popularity, to the extent that the very act of watching the show became a religious ritual, and the TV sets were transformed into shrines for collective worship of Rama. Building on the TV adaptation’s unexpected popularity, L.K. Advani, the leading rightwing ideologue, undertook a nationwide rath… Read More...