Seminar & Discussion with Rosie Thomas: Arabian Nights, Indian Cinema, and Sociocultural Implications
Friday, October 19, 2018 - 12:00pm

Seminar and Discussion with Rosie Thomas: Arabian Nights, Indian Cinema, and Sociocultural Implication 

Seminar and Discussion by Rosie Thomas, University of Westminster


Date: Friday, October 19th, 2018

Time: 12:00pm 

Location: PSU Cramer Hall Room 124 ( 1721 S.W. Broadway Ave, Portland, Oregon) 

Free and Open to Public!


The Arabian Nights were a major force in the transnational popular culture circuits of the early 20th century. This body of fantastical stories—which originated in India and evolved across Arab and European cultures over several centuries—inspired both high and low cultural arts forms not only in Europe and America, but also in India. ‘Fantasy’ and ‘jadoo’ (magic) films were staples of India’s silent cinema and continued to draw large audiences on the C-grade circuits until the 1960s. But India’s relationship to these tales of enchanted ‘other’ places was complex: Indian filmmakers drew as much on Urdu qissa-dastaan traditions and Parsi theatre as on Hollywood, and their films created their own imaginary, quasi-Islamicate, Orient.


Focusing on Aladdin and Alibaba, both successfully remade throughout Indian cinema history, this talk will explore the complex series of appropriations involved in bringing these curiously hybrid, transnational tales to Indian popular audiences. How did the imaginary worlds of the fantasy films relate to internationally fashionable orientalist forms? What might these films have meant to their subaltern Indian audiences? The presentation will remind us that, alongside nationalist orthodoxies, a significant stream of Bombay cinema has always reveled in cultural hybridity, borrowing voraciously from global popular culture and engaging with transcultural flows of cosmopolitan modernity and postmodernity, largely beneath the radar of India’s nationalist elite.


 Rosie Thomas is Professor of Film at the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) and Director of the India Media Centre at the University of Westminster, London. Her early research as a social anthropologist was on the Bombay film industry and, since 1985, she has published widely on Indian cinema, with a special focus on pre- and early post-independence films. Throughout the 1990s she worked as a television producer making documentaries, arts and current affairs programmes for Channel 4, many on South Asia related topics. From 2019, she will be working with Joshua Oppenheimer on a three-year, AHRC-funded, practice-based research project Documentary of the Imagination. She is co-founder and co-editor of the Sage journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies. Her monograph Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies was published by SUNY Press in 2015.




Sponsored by the Institute for Asian Studies & the Portland State School of Film 


For more information, contact:
The PSU Institute for Asian Studies
Tel. 503-725-8576