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.
Laura C. Brown
University of Pittsburgh (Anthropology)
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