Spaces of Laughter: Stand-up Comedy and the Production of 'Global' Urban Space in India

Authors: Aju James*, Bowling Green State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Asia
Keywords: Mumbai, Cosmopolitanism, Globalization, Culture Industry, Cultural Geography, National Identity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper argues that production practices in stand-up comedy in Mumbai, India, aim at making specific venues and places of performance into ‘global’ places. Places are actively produced through labour (specifically production practices) so that they become unique but marketable consumption choices for India’s new middle class. These practices of ‘place-making’, I argue, contribute to the abstraction of these places, and their use, as images that contribute to the cityscape of Mumbai as a global city. Relying on ethnographic observations and interviews, this paper shows how the production of such places are part of a larger process of the construction of a ‘global Indian’ identity by the new middle class—the primary producers and consumers of stand-up. The new middle class articulates a global identity that retains appropriate difference from the West, enabling them to gain favourable positions in the global flow of capital. Thus, I argue that a) the contradictions of globalization produces a new urban space in Mumbai, b) which the new middle class uses to create a global identity through stand-up comedy, c) which in turn enables them to intervene in global flows of capital.

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