The Institute for the Humanities facilitates work that examines humanities traditions broadly across space and time; deepens synergies among the humanities, the arts and disciplines across the university; and brings the humanities to public life. Each year it provides fellowships for U-M faculty, graduate students and visiting scholars who work on scholarly and artistic projects. Assistant Professor Swapnil Rai is one of the eight U-M faculty members who will be fellows at the institute during the 2022-23 academic year.
Rai's project, entitled "Networked Bollywood: Star Switching Power and the Globalization of Indian Cinema" presents an oft-elided history in narrativizing Bollywood’s globalization and India's cinematic diplomacy that has focused only on the industrial exchange where stars feature as valuable commodities within the exchange rather than as critical drivers of globalization and soft power. This interdisciplinary project necessitates a rethinking of film/star/industry studies as well as cultural diplomacy that have often functioned as disconnected, exclusionary scholarly frameworks by demonstrating the interconnected dovetailing that situates specific individuals as agentic nodes that can catalyze change within industrial and political realms. My work demonstrates that in the global south, the paradigm for star power compels us to think beyond Anglocentric paradigms to emphasize lateral south-south flows of cultural influence. While chronicling this perspective, this project also foregrounds and challenges the power differential and gendered nature of star power in a masculinist industry.