Accepted paper:

What might we learn from a historical phenomenology of film going in colonial south India?

Authors:

Stephen Hughes (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers a possible outline for a historical phenomenology of film going in the cinema halls of Madras during the early decades of the 20th century. The paper re-evaluate historical materials about the early institutions, practices and material spaces of film exhibition as a way of contemplating the embodied sensual and social experience of film going.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers a possible outline for a historical phenomenology of film going in the cinema halls of Madras during the early decades of the 20th century. The point here is not to try to recreate some long gone film going experience, but to re-evaluate historical materials about the early institutions, practices and material spaces of film exhibition as a way of contemplating the embodied sensual and social experience of film going. I propose a kind of historical ethnography in order to tap into the wealth of scattered historical sources about what it was like to go the cinema in Madras that has yet to be considered as part of film history in India. By examining the physical arrangement of exhibition space, the staged performance of film screenings, vending and consumption, ventilation, noises, talking, disruptions and pranks we can begin to contemplate how a shared social and embodied sense of film going both preceded and exceeded the films themselves. I argue that in order to consider the longstanding and complicated question about the relationship between film and its larger social and cultural settings in India, we must necessarily study how people engaged with film through the social space and embodied sensuality of film going.

panel P14
Social sense and embodied sensibility at the cinema: towards an aesthetics of film-going