Title: Simulation and Solidarity: How an Indian Subaltern Music Video on YouTube Simulates Solidarity
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies, Gender and Communication
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Suanmuanlian Tonsing, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, United States
On October 31st 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded a four-year-old girl from the state of Mizoram for singing a contemporary version of the national song Maa Tuhje Salam from A.R. Rahman’s album "Vande Mataram". The music video uploaded on YouTube caught the attention of the nation as it crossed 10 million views as of September 2021. Ironically, the music video was produced from Mizoram in the Indo-Myanmar border region populated by minority hill people whose tragic experiences of socio-political conflict with the postcolonial Indian government translates into an instrument of disengagement from the larger Indian mainstream society till today. In this context, the paper problematizes the simulation of solidarity in the music video on YouTube. It attempts to derive possibilities of simulating the absence of solidarity in everyday life as presence in the music video, which hides the oppressive experience and the socio-cultural, historical and political struggles of the subalterns in India. The simulacra conceal the fact that there exists none. It feigns what one hasn’t: it feigns to have solidarity. Using content analysis, the study looks at both the content of music videos and the user’s negotiation in YouTube comment sections. It argues that through simulation the notion of solidarity is corrupted against its conventional understanding, which takes place only in the hyperreal world. The study argues that it is the correlation between the signs in the music video and users’ negotiation of the signs that kills solidarity, rather than producing it.
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