The Informal Archive in India

You are cordially invited to a talk and presentation by Ashish Rajadhyaksha, media historian and archivist from the Centre for the Study of Culture & Society in Bangalore, India on THURSDAY 11 MAY 2006 at 5.00 p.m. Ashish will introduce the Comprehensive Online Resource for Education (CORE), a recent initiative of CSCS, and present a short history of changing practices of database management, digital archiving, and curriculum and courseware development at CSCS for teaching cultural studies and social sciences in India.

CSCS and the New Academic Domain in India

The Centre for the Study of Culture & Society was founded in 1998 in Bangalore, as a ‘new generation’ academic research centre. While CSCS derived its historical legacy from the tradition of institutionalised social science research as supported by the well-known state-run institutes of the ICSSR (Indian Council for Social Science Research), it has also struck out on its own with new
models for inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional pedagogy and research in the field of social science and theory.

The Digital Resource

Since the late 1990s, CSCS has experimented with database formats that could be transformed into teachable instruments. In 1999 CSCS started its Media & Culture Archive, and extended this in 2004 into India’s only M.A. programme in Cultural Studies taught entirely online. In 2005, this was further extended into the Undergraduate Diploma Programme in Cultural Studies. In the future, CSCS seeks to consolidate effective databasing with online pedagogy, by further linking this connection to the larger needs of social science pedagogy in India.

The Social Sciences in India

Indian social science research has been, since the 1970s and the pioneering work of the Subaltern Studies Collective, perhaps the most significant social science research tradition worldwide for close to two decades. Among its significant aspects has been its interlinking with the priorities of India’s NGO movement together with the needs of academic institutions both inside and outside the

Furthering this linkage, social science research has mined the resources provided by numerous practices of independent informal archiving. As such archiving encounters the problems of digitization, it has also opened social science practice into three further areas: (1) The linking of the special skills of navigating the archives with new techniques of online pedagogy, (2) The
options opened up by online publication, and (3) The need for consolidated structures of data collaboration including academically valid search platforms.

The Domain of ‘Informal Archiving’ in India

Since roughly the late 1970s (conventionally from the time of the end of the Emergency), non-governmental organisations have attempted a form of archiving, alongside their work on advocacy, research, training and monitoring in their specialised fields of interest. Since the mid-1990s, this movement has also sought to enter the domain of digitization at various levels, and with varying

The ‘informal archive’ in India could consist of anything between 3-5,000 institutions seeking to work at various levels, from the collection to the catalogue to the archive itself. It is now a sufficiently significant database, with sufficiently significant problems, to merit an independent look, as the phenomenon grows in tandem with the research work of social scientists in India.

About CORE

The Comprehensive Online Resource for Education (CORE) is an attempt to think through a possible strategy for bringing together the diverse resources and research materials available in different locations of new social science research in India, with a possible Asian extension. CORE hopes to bring into focus the the need to convert critical research into teachable, intelligible and easily accessible knowledge bases, the identifying of effective online tools and methods for teaching and learning, and the relocation of education centres, the educators and the students within the digital interfaces of cyberspace – all within the domain of higher education in social sciences in Asia.

ASHISH RAJADHYAKSHA is Senior Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Culture & Society (CSCS) in Bangalore, where he coordinates the CSCS Media Archive and the CSCS CORE (Comprehensive Online Resource for Education). With Paul Willemen, he was co-author and editor of the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (1999). He is an active member of the editorial collective of the Journal of Arts and Ideas, and is a regular contributor to the journals Framework and Sight & Sound, and an advisor to CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust), Mumbai.

He has written Ritwik Ghatak: A Return to the Epic (1983), was Editor, The Sad and Glad of Kishore Kumar (Research Centre for Cinema Studies, 1988); was Editor, with Amrit Gangar, of Ghatak: Arguments/Stories (Screen Unit/Research Centre for Cinema Studies, 1987). He was co-curator, with Geeta Kapur, of the exhibition Bombay/Mumbai 1992-2001, part of the exhibition Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, at the Tate Modern, London, 2001 [6]. Ashish’s forthcoming book is called CINEMA IN THE TIME OF CELLULOID: INDIAN EVIDENCE 2005-1925 (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2007).

Real Estate Capital & Film Finance in Bombay


Ashish Rajadhyaksha, “The Contrasting Case of Bombay” chapter from forthcoming book Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: Indian Evidence 2005-1925 (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2007).

Nikhil Rao, “The City as Subject: The Acquisitions of the Bombay Improvement Trust” (chapter from  dissertation in the Department of History, University of Chicago, 2006)


Y.D. Phadke, “Impact of the Great Depression and the Second World War on Agriculture and Industry in the Bombay Presidency, 1929-1945” in Meera Kosambi, ed. Intersections: Socio-Cultural Trends in Maharashtra, New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2000, pp.141-160.

Purshottam Thakurdas, J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla, Ardeshir Dalal, Shri Ram, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, A.D. Shroff and John Matthai, A Brief Memorandum Outlining a Plan of Economic Development for India, London: Penguin Books, 1944.

P.A. Wadia and K.T. Merchant, The Bombay Plan: A Criticism, Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1946.

J.J. Anjaria, D.T. Lakdawala and S.A. Pandit, War and the Middle Class: An Inquriy into the Effects of Wartime Inflation on Middle Class Families in Bombay City, Bombay: Padma Publications, 1946.

C.N. Vakil, J.J. Anjaria and D.T. Lakdawala, Price Control and Food Supply with Special Reference to Bombay City, Bombay: N.M. Tripathi & Company, 1943.

Shree 420

raj420zq1.pngWe will be screening Raj Kapoor’s classic film Shree 420 on TUESDAY 9 MAY 2006 from about 5.45 to 8.45 p.m., with discussion to follow. Released in 1955 and set in Bombay, Shree 420 is one of the most influential products of the booming fifties Bombay film industry, and a canonical representation of urban life in the postcolonial city.

Shree 420 names itself in a contradiction. Article 420 of the postcolonial Indian Penal Code provides juridical sanction for the prosecution of acts of cheating or fraud; Shree is a standard appellation of respect, naming a modern Mister, or denoting a gentleman. And this gentlemanly cheat is, in the text of the film examined here, embodied in the equally ambiguous figure of the subaltern hero Raj Kapoor — the tramp bumbling his way through the gullies and crowded, inhospitable streets of that favoured location of the 1950s popular Hindi cinema: the metropolis of Bombay, the privileged place for the production of the newly independent nation’s identity and the socialist vision. Hailed by cinema audiences throughout the new republic on its release in 1955, Raj Kapoor’s tramp-hero Raju was the cinematic embodiment of an unique historical conjuncture of the new Indian republic. The educated unemployed, the urban proletariat, Partition refugees, and the reformist petty bourgeoisie could all identify with Raju, newly arrived in the steamy concrete jungle of Bombay, following the noisy and irresistible path of the new expansive capitalism in search of distinction, prosperity, and a certain experience of modernity.

Sex, Work & Migration in Mumbai


Svati Shah, “Sex Work and Secrecy” and “The Red Light Area: Producing the Spectacle of Sex Work” (from dissertation “Seeing Sexual Commerce: Sex, Work and Migration in the City of Mumbai”, Columbia University Department of Anthropology, 2005).


Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, London: Verso Books, 2005.