Department of Anthropology
Bryn Mawr College
“Female Voice-Body Relationships and the Acoustic Organization of Tamil Cinema, 1940-1960”
This talk will explore how relationships between the female voice and the female body were managed in South Indian Tamil-language cinema of the 1940s and 1950s, during the transition from singing actresses to the division of labor between professional playback singers who recorded their voices in the studio and actresses who appeared on screen. While the relationship between the female voice and the female body was managed through a combination of technological, discursive, and performative means in the world of South Indian classical music, it was simultaneously being negotiated in the context of cinema, where technological mediation provided expanded possibilities for representing voice-body relationships. Examining several Tamil films from this period, we can see a variety of ways in which the potentially problematic spectacle of a performing female body was presented.