In Doing Style, Constantine V. Nakassis explores the world of youth and mass media in South India. Through ethnographic descriptions of college life in urban Tamil Nadu, Nakassis examines what Tamil youth call “style”: the display of ostentatious brand fashion, speaking in cosmopolitan English, or acting out bombastic film heroism, among other kinds of acts. As Nakassis shows, acts of “doing style” express the ambivalent desires and anxieties of these youth who live in the shadows of global modernity. This ambivalence is reflected in the conflicted ways that youth do style. Among youth, what appear are not authentic but fake branded garments, not fluent English but English-peppered Tamil, and not imitations of film heroes but ironical and playful citations.
Doing Style also explores the connections among youth peer groups and the sites where such stylish objects are produced: textile workshops, music-television channels, and the Tamil film industry. Nakassis shows how these connections deeply condition the production and circulation of these media. They inscribe youth style on these media, materializing as fashionable garments, on-air speech styles, and film texts that anticipate and give form to youth’s ambivalent acts of style.
Doing Style presents an important and timely look at contemporary youth culture, globalization, and mass media as they interact in a vibrant and rapidly changing India. This book will appeal to socio-cultural anthropologists, sociolinguists, and scholars of media and cultural studies.
Note on Transliteration, Quotation, and Pseudonyms
List of Symbols and Abbreviations
1. Doing Style
PART I Brand
2. Brand and Brandedness
3. Brandedness and the Production of Surfeit
PART II Language
4. Style and the Threshold of English
5. Bringing the Distant Voice Close
PART III Film
6. College Heroes and Film Stars
7. Status through the Screen
8. Media’s Entanglements
Constantine V. Nakassis is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago.