Elevate Difference

Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction

There is no use in burying the head of an ostrich in censorship and imagining the enemy knows nothing of what we are doing. — S.C. Lind

Censorship in South Asia dissects the history and socio-political dynamics of censorship in India, which have been transcribed into the public culture of the South Asian society over the years. The book digs deep into all forms of formal, state censorship, as well as unofficial censorship tactics that are employed by political and pressure groups—from blackening out images and words from advertising and cinema to street politics and political communication. The popular response to books like Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and films like Deepa Mehta’s Fire and Water show the way censorship has left its traces on everything that goes away from the tide.

The book further explores how censorship has not only shaped the public culture, but has also given a more vivid definition to its adversary: publicity. Censorship as an organized activity has one too many actors and Censorship in South Asia examines the intentions and outcomes of these actors’ anxieties over a free press. Yet, the essays also emphasize another essential agent caught within the web of censorship: the media's call for liberalism and free speech. Despite the board of censorship’s continual attempts to control free speech, in one way or another, information does leak.

The process of censorship is not necessarily a smooth one, and controlling the liquid nature of the press can be a hard task. Censorship in South Asia traces the genealogy of censorship through time to reveal its ever-contested presence in Indian cinema and beyond.

Cross-posted with Gender Across Borders

Written by: Maria Khan, November 1st 2009