South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Evoking the Qawm: Humor, Ballads and Subjecthood in Punjabi Electoral Campaigns

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

This paper explores the employment of humor and ballads in electoral campaigns in post-colonial Punjab. Recent elections in Indian Punjab have witnessed the phenomenon of popular comedians such as Gurpreet Ghuggi, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bhagwant Mann actively campaigning for the three parties that dominate Punjab’s political arena – the Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal. Humor has, however, been a prominent oratorical tool employed by a number of socio-political leaders in the colonial and post-colonial periods. This paper argues that humor and ballads (vars as well as more ‘secular’ heroic tales) are important ways through which to evoke conceptions of qawm (however defined) and notions of modern (masculine) subjecthood based along regional and caste lines. The paper begins with an examination of the employment of mirasis and other performers by electoral candidates and assesses the deployment of specific performances and tales. It then goes on to review the political content and aims embedded within popular Punjabi songs (e.g. Akal Jat Di) and comedic albums. The political nature of humor and its deployment to evoke a sense of regional and caste identity will be emphasized throughout.


 

Iqbal Sevea

National University of Singapore, United States

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3 - Evoking the Qawm: Humor, Ballads and Subjecthood in Punjabi Electoral Campaigns



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