Serializing Modernity: New Theories of Subjectivity in Postcolonial Indian Soaps

Sheetal Majithia (Cornell University, USA)

In recent studies of television melodrama, the soap opera or serial genre, once considered trash-TV or kitsch, emerges as a viable site from which to study the construction of femininity, national subjectivity, and modernity in non-metropolitan locations. The thematization through melodrama of the role of women, nationalism, and the state, in producing new modern subjects troubles the stable category of modernity that facilitates the conflation of postmodernity with postcoloniality. Mapping out various theories of melodrama, this paper examines how metropolitan and global understandings of the genre and its spectatorship allow us to attend to the folk, popular, and epic forms that produce the hybrid Indian televisual soap-text. While melodrama and soap operas in particular have traditionally been studied as feminized forms of narrative, this paper attempts to account for their popularity among male and female viewers and state and corporate exploitation of this popularity in order to interpellate viewers as consumers into the new liberal economy. Finally, the paper examines whether the production of a new modern subject is simply in service of corporate and state interests or if the practice of viewing soaps with pleasure and understanding allows us to situate soap operas as possible sites of resistant reading.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001