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CANCELED: Vernacular Audiovisual Productions of Religious Experience: New Media, Small Media and Religious Performance in South Asia

How do media practices intersect with different religious performances? Unraveling assumptions about the power of media to change, corrupt or obliterate tradition, we explore the ways in which new or informal networks of vernacular and small media represent or convey religious performances.


· Carola Lorea National University of Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)
· Priyanka Basu British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Long Abstract

What happens to Moharram when this gets recorded and commodified? Why are improvised battles of kabigan poetry broadcasted on TV? What are the aesthetics of the VCDs of devotional songs? And what happens to spiritual songs traditionally taught by a baul guru, or to the melodic recitations of Islamic sermons, when these are being learned through mobile phones? This panel seeks to explore similar questions by deconstructing general assumptions on media, technologies and religious performances. It will reflect on the new and changing relations between religious expressions and the production, consumption and reception of audio, audiovisual, and digital media. By showing tensions and contradictions between pictorial representations, sound effects, spoken word, doctrinal teachings and stylized movement, media products will be discussed as complex and stratified religious items, on which different agents inscribe their own ideals, concerns and interests. Whether distributed in the bazar of small studio recordings, or weekly sold at the dusty entrance of temples, played on loud speakers at pilgrimage sites, or recorded on mobile phones of pious devotees, these media are hardly ever a single and coherent product, but rather a process that involves the creativity, interests and concerns of different parties, enclosing multiple voices and layers of meaning. In the work of our contributors, the auditory-visual field of religious chanting, preaching, mourning, or singing, becomes a site for broader social negotiations, sectarian contestations and trans-territorial identity formations, ultimately unsettling and multiplying the discussion on religion and media in South Asia.