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Roos Gerritsen

"Cut the Cutout Culture!": Chennai's Unanticipated City and the Politics of Spectacle

"Cut the Cutout Culture!": Chennai's Unanticipated City and the Politics of Spectacle
Starts on 11 February 2010 "Cut the Cutout Culture!": Chennai's Unanticipated City and the Politics of Spectacle

Abstract of the paper:

The cityscapes of Chennai were until recently saturated with billboards, posters, murals, cutouts, and other signposts of diverse styles and formats. Huge billboards and myriad murals and signboards advertised all sorts of wares; from jewelry and mobile networks to political leaders and the latest movie releases. Tamil Nadu is particularly well known for this spectacle of leaders and heroes; famous for some and notorious for others. At present, Chennai’s city administration is intervening in Chennai’s lively street culture and has initiated campaigns to regulate this visual 'pollution' of unanticipated forms of display within the city.In this paper the speaker will explore the practice of display by specifically looking into fan club imagery and political ads and the ways in which they seem to recede from the urban landscape. She will argue that the unanticipated city, which consists of these spontaneous forms of public imagery do not fit in Chennai’s beautification project in which the city is conceptualized as a rational and modern space. But there is something paradoxical at hand here. What is striking in this case is that the politicians that now try to curb these unregulated and “disorderly” formations of the city pre-eminently initiated this visual regime of representation and therefore actually represent this part of the city par excellence. This paper will explore this paradox, which unfolds in debates on the urban fabric of the city.

About the Speaker:

Roos Gerritsen’s research focuses on popular visual culture in South Asia. Her research interests lie primarily in the fields of vernacular image production, and notions of publics, public space, fandom and stardom. She obtained her MA degree in Anthropology at Leiden University, The Netherlands. Her MA research provided insight into notions of romance and memory through a study of wedding videos and photo albums in Tamil Nadu.Since 2006, Roos is working on a PhD project on South Indian fan clubs and their production, dissemination, and consumption of cinematic imagery of their movie hero. Her research looks into the role of this imagery employed by fans in both the production of celebrity status of their individual stars and the formation of cinematic publics. By investigating these image-practices within a wider genre of public visual culture, Roos is looking into the ways in which fans position both themselves and their stars in the public sphere. At the same time, she is tracking the changes that have taken place in the materiality of images, which not only influence their usage but the entire image economy as well. Investigating the larger image world of which fan imagery is part should give insight into the ways in which public space is consumed and appropriated at large.


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