Sound and the City: Mimicry and Media in South India


Department of Anthropology
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010


Through an analysis of gramophone recordings of mimicry of scenes of public city life made in Tamil in South India between 1904 and 1907 and marketed to a new urban middle class in the colonial city of Madras, this article examines the relationship between emerging class structures and the technologies that are contemporaneous with them. I argue that through these recordings the gramophone is constructed on analogy with the mimicry artist as a faithful recorder of linguistic difference, while the intertwining of realism and parody inherent in mimicry is used here to recruit an omniscient middle-class listening subject. [sound recording, linguistic difference, class, voice, verbal performance]