Cornell University

SAP Seminar Series: "Power Cut Comedy and Network Connections in Tamil Nadu, India" by Laura C. Brown

Monday, April 24, 2017 at 12:15pm to 1:15pm

Uris Hall, G08 109 Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14850

In the last decade power cuts have become a regular, if not a routine, feature of life in Tamil Nadu, India. Rather than representing a break from everyday routines, real and anticipated power cuts are integral to the way in which ordinary life in Indian cities is built and imagined. Drawing on jokes, popular film, and recordings of everyday conversations, Professor Brown examines how talk about electrical systems allows urban residents to create and speculate about other kinds of connection. Although the experience of power cuts is sporadic, they are often represented in ways that extend their temporal and spatial boundaries to describe ongoing relationships and inequalities. Professor Brown traces how circulation of jokes that define the lack of power as emblematic of speaking Tamil, living in Tamil Nadu, or of being Indian serves to strengthen and create other forms of infrastructure.

Laura C. Brown is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research examines intersections between language and money with a geographic focus in Tamil South Asia. She has conducted fieldwork in Tamil Nadu, India examining how conversations in small roadside shops shape the value of goods, money, and the people with whom they are associated. Her current research further explores the relationship between intimate linguistic exchanges and broader political economic transformations through the analysis of typographic design, commodification, and use by South Asian language speakers.


Event Type



Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Sustainability




Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Daniel Bass

Contact Phone



Laura C. Brown

Speaker Affiliation

University of Pittsburgh (Anthropology)

Disability Access Information

Wheelchair accessible, assisted listening device available

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