Esha Shah argues current theories on development and globalisation fail to take into account the powerful impact affective atmospheres have on shaping social and political reality. In seeking to address this, she uses popular Hindi films to sense the contemporary mood and to show how the shifts in the way poverty situations are depicted hint at changes in public morality.
This article links to an earlier India At LSE post: Can film offer an(other) authoritative source of development knowledge? by David Lewis, Dennis Rodgers & Michael Woolcock
If the rich could hire others to die for them, we, the poor, would all make a nice living
This is a Jewish proverb that figures in the classic film Fiddler on the Roof. The subjective positions of the rich and the poor in this proverb are entangled in an ironical way. The rich are afraid of dying and the poor do not have enough for living. From the point of view of poor people, while the deaths cannot be exchanged for money, the rich would not hesitate to trade them if they could. Historian David Hardiman discusses another such ironical proverb linking poor peasants with Marwari-Jain money lenders: “A Baniya’s logic can never be understood; while he never drinks water without straining it carefully, he drinks blood freely.” In these representations of popular culture, poor people are not always portrayed as occupying the position of deprivation, need or marginality in relation to rich people.
Yet this is not how poor people and poverty are visualised in the policy discourses. Development discourses routinely conceptualise poverty in terms of different forms of lacking – for instance, lack of health, income, resources, well-being, education or capabilities. They also widely employ mechanical, spatial, and hydraulic metaphors such as up/down, below/above, centre/periphery, inside/outside, inclusion/exclusion to quantify or qualify the phenomena of poverty which is largely described in negative connotations.