December 2, 2016 – Dr. Constantine V. Nakassis

Please join us on  Friday, December 2nd at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the next meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Dr. Constantine V. Nakassis, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the College at the University of Chicago. Professor Nakassis will be presenting a paper entitled “The Hero’s Mass and the Ontological Politics of the Image in Tamil Cinema.

Dr. Nakassis’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [] or Dave Burnham [] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham


“The Hero’s Mass and the Ontological Politics of the Image in Tamil Cinema”

This paper looks at so-called mass heroes of the Tamil film industry of South India, auratic figures that are bombastic and larger than life on and off the screen. Abiding a particular aesthetic and political regime of the image, the screen image of a mass hero is less a representation of his personage than a presencing of his being. Such presence affords a range of affective performativities, whereby representations of the mass hero constitute performative acts by/on the actor himself. Drawing on interviews with fans and filmmakers of a recent mass-hero film (“the Ultimate Star” Ajith Kumar’s 2011 Mankatha), the paper interrogates this form of presence and the ontology of the image it instates; in particular, it asks what happens when the mass-hero’s affecting presence is framed within a representationalist realist aesthetics whose liberal politics eschews the populist politics immanent/imminent in the mass-hero’s presence? Putting these ethnographic and textual materials in dialogue with classic questions of the “ontology” of the film image, the paper argues that in Mankatha one can detect the uneasy play of a multiplicity of ontological tendencies and forces that unsettles any attempt to account for “the” ontology of any image-type. This unsettling suggests that questions about the ontologies of images must be posed relative to the open-ended political processes through which images come into being.

Constantine V. Nakassis is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of the 2016 book, Doing Style: Youth and Mass Mediation in South India (University of Chicago Press, Orient Blackswan), and has published essays on Tamil film, trademark law and piracy in the US and India, youth cultural practice in south India, and the semiotics of performativity and citationality. He is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively entitled Onscreen/Offscreen: Ontologies of the Image in Tamil Cinema. 


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