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Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Sound and the City: Mimicry and Media in South India

Authors


Department of Anthropology
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
aweidman@brynmawr.edu

Abstract

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]

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