Mr and Mrs Iyer Film Discussion


Watch the film first, then write a paper of it. 1) a brief (one paragraph) summary or overview of the film; 2) a one page analysis or discussion of a film in terms of what it shows about cultural life; 3) your personal response or thoughts about the film.This term the course will focus especially on the following themes: Tensions between modernity and traditionGender as a cultural constructionThe impact of history and politics on everyday lifeSelf-making and ethical subjectivityReligion in Asian film and cultural life

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Mr. and Mrs. Iyer
Mr. and Mrs. Iyer
Directed by Aparna Sen
• Represents diversity “on the bus”
• What kinds of diversity?
Religious—and religious differences are
connected to communal violence
Linguistic—people have to shift languages to
find one they all speak; English is often lingua
franca, the common language
But what else?
The director, Sen, tries to represent as much
diversity as possible:
Age: young, old
Traditional, modern
Religion (religion, not race, source of tensions in
And caste..
Caste can be difficult for non-South Asians to
understandings, but understandings about caste
assumed by South Asians in subtle ways. But
caste is also rejected and challenged in everyday
What is caste? What is a caste system?
• Caste is a system of social differences and hierarchy
(the system creates social groups or social categories
and ranks them ) based on cultural understand of
human differences and on behaviors that put these
understandings into practice.
It is necessary to make some distinctions between
historical and contemporary attitudes and understandings
towards caste: and the film represented some as more
“traditional” in terms of caste and some as more
“modern” and critical
• .Historically and in traditional settings: Caste
(often) determines marriage choices; it
sometimes (but not always—and less so in the
modern era) influences occupational choices.
One’s caste could be farmer or priest,
metalworker and so on.
• Historically, one could—or was supposed to—
only marry a member of one’s own caste, and
certainly not someone from a lower caste.
Castes often form hierarchies or were thought
to do so—some groups were ranked “higher”
and some “lower.” People may agree or
disagree about the relative ranking of castes,
although castes with sacred threads are
“higher” than castes with stigmatized
occupations (“lower” castes such as traditional
leather workers, cleaners).
Myth: “Castes are uniquely Hindu. False.”
In India caste is sometimes followed by members of
Christian, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and Muslim communities. It
seems fair to say that these religions also have resources for
rejecting caste divisions.
Caste is social, not religious. Religion is sometimes used to
justify caste discrimination and preferential treatment; and
this is true of Hinduism as the religion of the largest number
of people in India; but one can find parallels for the use of
religion to justify or legitimate discrimination and preferences
in European, North American and colonial forms of
Christianity as well.
Myth: People sometimes think “caste has been abolished
in India.” False. “India’s constitution declares that
[practices of] ‘untouchability’[(the lowest most
stigmatized groups were ‘untouchable’] has been
abolished and that anyone discriminating against
‘untouchables’ can be prosecuted. However, India’s
constitution says nothing about abolishing castes.
Similarly, in the United States discrimination on the
grounds of race and gender has been declared illegal.
However, the United States has no laws abolishing race or
gender.” (Source: Everyday Life in South Asia, p. 154)
• Men and women are thought of as different
“castes” (jat) by some; and today some people
say there are only two castes, male and female.
• Castes co-exists with economic social
differentiations: some one from a “low” caste can
be wealthy, although a historical perspective
suggests some alignment of caste system and
socioeconomic system. But in modern settings
caste background does not necessarily predict
socioeconomic status or educational level.
• A model of caste generates understandings of
why caste boundaries have to be defended
• Behaviors that implement the model
• Coded substance model: mobile or
transferable “moral” gene-like particles
• Assumes porous boundaries to the person
• Behaviors that implement the model
For those following caste, a rule is, Don’t share
food water with someone who is not a member
of your own caste.
Eat only food cooked by a member of your caste
or a higher caste than your own.

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Aparna Sen

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