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Bollywood, Tibet, and the spatial and temporal dimensions of global modernity

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While Bollywood is established as global popular culture, its journey into Tibet has been an idiosyncratic and complex one. Unlike the well-known manifestations of transnational Bollywood, in Tibet, Bollywood is not underpinned by an Indian diaspora or indeed Islamicate-based crossovers in the cultural and linguistic expression of romance. Furthermore, there is no legal import of Bollywood films or music into China's still protectionist cultural market, and zero attempts by Bombay producers to target China as yet.

This ethnographically-based article describes Bollywood in Tibet in live and recorded performing arts, analyzing in historical perspective the legal and illegal flows of people and goods, as well as other ties between Tibet and India and South Asia that drive this fashionable corner of Tibetan popular culture. This article also explores how Bollywood (and India) slot into the context of Chinese multiculturalism as an exotic and also erotic other.

The article as a whole highlights the historical as well as the modern forces of globalization, seeing the roots of Bollywood in Tibet as lying in ancient ties between Tibet and India and also Nepal, as well as in modern tourism and trade. This points to the fluidity of cultural topographies and trajectories in the pre-modern world. The article also emphasizes how far the globalization of Bollywood is due to specific regional and national issues, most notably, the nationalist project of the PRC which brought into being exile Tibet in India and Nepal as a kind of collateral damage.

Keywords: Bollywood; contemporary Tibet; cultural topography; globalization; media; migration; modernity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Royal Holloway College, London University.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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  • Studies in South Asian Film and Media (SAFM) is the most promising new journal in the field. This peer-reviewed publication is committed to looking at the media and cinemas of the Indian subcontinent in their social, political, economic, historical, and increasingly globalized and diasporic contexts. The journal will evaluate these topics in relation to class, caste, gender, race, sexuality, and ideology.
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