Anaar Desai-Stephens (Eastman): “Bollywood Songs and Structures of Feeling in Aspirational India”

This talk is free and open to the public.

Anaar Desai-Stephens is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Eastman School of Music and Affiliate Faculty at the Susan B. Anthony Institute.

Trained as an ethnomusicologist and violinist, Desai-Stephens' research focuses on popular music and media in South Asia. Her broader research interests include the intersection of musical practice, embodiment, and subjectivity; musical affect; global media and circulation; music in prisons; and the transnational life of the violin.

Her current book project investigates intertwined changes in popular music and youth subjectivity following India's economic liberalization two decades ago. Drawing on nearly two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Mumbai, this project combines ethnographic methods, multimedia analysis, and archival research to theorize the central role of musical practice in creating a new economy of aspiration in liberalizing India. Focusing on reality music television shows such as Indian Idol, and a new set of schools that train contestants for them, she argues that Hindi film song has become a privileged site for participating in the aspirational project of modern India, allowing young singers to work towards a desirable musical future in Bollywood while cultivating themselves as more expressive subjects.



Cultural Anthropology