Synopses & Reviews
In the world of globalized media, provocative images trigger culture wars between traditionalists and cosmopolitans, between censors and defenders of free expression. But are images censored because of what they mean, what they do, or what they might become? And must audiences be protected because of what they understand, what they feel, or what they might imagine?
At the intersection of anthropology, media studies, and critical theory, Censorium is a pathbreaking analysis of Indian film censorship. The book encompasses two moments of moral panic: the consolidation of the cinema in the 1910s and 1920s, and the global avalanche of images unleashed by liberalization since the early 1990s. Exploring breaks and continuities in film censorship across colonial and postcolonial moments, William Mazzarella argues that the censors' obsessive focus on the unacceptable content of certain images and the unruly behavior of particular audiences displaces a problem that they constantly confront yet cannot directly acknowledge: the volatile relation between mass affect and collective meaning. Grounded in a close analysis of cinema regulation in the world's largest democracy, Censorium ultimately brings light to the elusive foundations of political and cultural sovereignty in mass-mediated societies.
"As a system of regulation behind mass publicity, censorship stands at a scholarly impasse, often arbitrary in its exercise and yet seemingly consensual in its popular outcomes. William Mazzarella fills major lacunae in the existing literature on censorship by his incisive analysis of the cultural forms of censorship across colonial and postcolonial periods. This is an important addition to the anthropology of media and globalization in South Asia."—Arvind Rajagopal, author of Politics after Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India
"In Censorium, William Mazzarella demonstrates that censorship is integral to the performance of sovereignty and the constitution of 'mass-publics' in socially diverse and mass-mediated societies. His incisive and immensely suggestive book is destined to become a standard reference in film studies, media studies, and the anthropology of the state."—Thomas Blom Hansen, author of Melancholia of Freedom: Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa
“This book is eminently readable and the arguments are easily accessible…. [S]o much of the density of the theoretical arguments that it resorts to are softened through such tender and accessible language that doesn’t for a moment appear to moralize or sermonize even when the author is forced to take up sensitive issues of culture, class, gender and morality…. Censorium is at once a documentary on censorship and a theoretical space for hair-splitting analyses.”
"This book, which lies at the intersection of anthropology and meida studies, is a path-breaking analysis of censorship in the Indian film industry."
Grounded in a close analysis of cinema regulation in the world's largest democracy, Censorium ultimately illuminates the elusive foundations of political and cultural sovereignty in mass-mediated societies.
About the Author
William Mazzarella is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India, also published by Duke University Press, and coeditor (with Raminder Kaur) of Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation From Sedition to Seduction.
Table of Contents
Introduction. The Censor's Fist 1
1. Performative Dispensations: The Elementary Forms of Mass Publicity 29
2. Who the Hell Do the Censors Think They Are? Grounds of the Censor's Judgment 76
3. We Are the Law! Censorship Takes to the Streets 115
4. Quotidian Eruptions: Aesthetic Distinction and the Extimate Squirm 156
5. Obscene Tendencies: Censorship and the Public Punctum 190