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Postcolonial sound archives and modern Indian cultural politics

Sound Studies Lecture Series

Thursday November 2 november
LUX:B251 (Helgonavägen 3, Lund)
The lecture is held in English!

Link to live-stream: 


How is knowledge about music produced in postcolonial sound archives and how are we to understand our relationship to the history and historiography of music of postcolonial societies? This talk addresses this question by taking a look at European legacies of sound recording and collection in India and their institutionalisation in the global north. Postcolonial sound archives are characterized by the complexities arising out of colonial modernity, nationalism and bourgeoning culture industries over the 20th and 21st centuries. Whilst historicising sound within colonial, orientalist and nationalist frameworks, I will closely look at methods of collection, cataloguing and institutionalisation to demonstrate transnational representations of India facilitated by diverse actors including collectors, academics, impresarios, cultural brokers, and performers. Drawing on examples from different collections institutionalised in western Europe, this talk will allow a flow between different disciplines and approaches that enable a dialogical interaction between history and contemporaneity. In doing so, this presentation hopes to generate a dialogue about postcolonial sound archives at large as well as contemporary ethical predicaments with regards to the preservation of sound archives and their future.



Rasika Ajotikar is Junior Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Institute for Music and Musicology and the Center for World Music at the University of Hildesheim. She was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Development Studies at SOAS. Her research examines the musical landscape of anti-caste thought in western India against the backdrop of the systematisation of music in colonial India and bourgeoning political movements over the 20th century. Her ethnographic work with activists and musicians in anti-caste spheres in contemporary western India explores the links between emancipatory politics and art, particularly music and sound, and at the same time, looks at issues of citizenship and state repression. This research has also informed her work on European sound collections of India/South Asia to engage with ongoing debates in the field of archival studies about colonial and nationalist modernity, historical and ethnographic method, cultural politics, ethics of repatriation and dissemination among others. Rasika is also a singer trained in the North Indian classical music tradition. She has been experimenting with different genres of Indian music and continues to collaborate on projects with musicians and activists from an anti-caste collective in India.