Cosmopolitanism, Remediation, and the Ghost World of Bollywood

This post builds on the research article “Cosmopolitanism, Remediation, and the Ghost World of Bollywood,” which was published in the February 2010 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.

In this article, David Novak examines how the process of remediation—"the repurposing of media for new contexts, the repurposing of one medium in another"—of Asian media creates contemporary cosmopolitan subjects. Novak traces the trajectory and transformation of one Indian song-and-dance routine, Jaan Pehechaan Ho, from 1960s Bollywood to a live performance of the indie group Heavenly Ten Stems in 1990s San Francisco to the 2001 film Ghost World. Through this itinerary, he demonstrates how cultural remediation involves "multi-directional overflows of media resources shaped by cultural differences, globalist desires, and cross-cutting aesthetic affinities." Where previous literature focused on the conflicts and losses created by cultural appropriations, Novak argues that looking at the process of remediation highlights the conditions that lead to the creation of new subjects. Though this process is marked by "ambivalence, distance, confusion, and the contingencies of globalism," the circulation and remediation of Asian media demonstrates how cultures and identities are made and remade "even as they spiral away from a singular politics of cultural identity."


Jaan Pehechaan Ho in the opening credits of Ghost World, restored and digitally pitch-shifted.
Full Jaan Pehechaan Ho sequence from Gumnaam, original length and pitch.
Live version of Jaan Pehechaan Ho, by the Heavenly Ten Stems.
Confrontation between Heavenly Ten Stems and protesters.
Jaan Pehechaan Ho remediated again in the 2011 Heineken commercial "The Date."
Jaan Pehechaan Ho remediated for Heineken's Serenade Facebook app in 2012.
A second remediation of Jaan Pehechaan Ho for Heineken's Serenade Facebook app in 2012.


Gumnaam (IMDB)

Ghost World (IMDB)

Interview with Brandan Kearney of Heavenly Ten Stems (2002)

Karthik Srinivasan's "Chronicles of Plagiarism in Indian Film"

Music Wayneandwax: Where Do I Begin (To Tell the Story?)

Questions for Classroom Discussion

1. How are the effects of remediation shaped by unequal positions of power? Consider the political consequences in a particular instance of remediation. Does the remediation of a media object benefit certain people more than others?

2. How do different objects of media circulation enter into your everyday talk and interactions with other people?

3. What does remediation have to do with the way we think about globalization? Give examples of cases in which the circulation of media changes the interactions between global cultures. Does the process of remediation look different from a local perspective?

4. What is the role of embodiment in remediation? How do dance, movement, costuming and other bodily performances change our cultural interpretations of media? Are these corporeal aspects more important for the circulation of some forms of media than others?

5. How does remediation create opportunities for new social identifications and exchanges? Describe some recent cultural discourses that have developed through creative projects of remediation.

Further Reading

Ahuja, Akshay. 2008. "Death Metal and the Indian Identity." Guernica, April.

Arnold, Alison. 1988. "Popular Film Song in India: A Case of Mass-Market Musical Eclecticism." Popular Music 7, no. 2: 177–88.

Bolter, Jay, and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Ganti, Tejaswini. 2004 Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema. New York: Routledge.

Gaonkar, Dilip Parameshwar, ed. 2001. Alternative Modernities. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Ortner, Sherry B. 1998. "Generation X: Anthropology in a Media-Saturated World." Cultural Anthropology 13, no. 3: 414–40.

Rajadhyaksha, Ashish. 2007. "The 'Bollywoodization' of Indian Cinema: Cultural Nationalism in a Global Arena." In Kaarsholm, P, ed. City Flicks: Indian Cinema and the Urban Experience, edited by Preben Kaarsholm, 111–37. London: Seagull Books.

Sarkar, Bhaskar. 2010. "Tracking 'Global Media' in the Outposts of Globalization." In World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives, edited by Nataša Durovicová and Kathleen Newman. New York: Routledge.

Shankar, Shalini. 2008. Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.