Globalization on the Ground: Media and the Transformation of Culture, Class, and Gender in India


Steve Derné

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    When I returned in 2001 to the Indian city of Banaras for the first time in 14 years, I immediately saw signs of the city's increasing global connections. In 1987, making a long-distance phone call meant trudging out to the telegraph office, where one often had to sleep for hours on the hard chairs waiting for a trunk line to Delhi. By 2001, some parts of the city had Internet service on every block and connections were usually trouble-free. At Rs 30 an hour (less than US$ 1), an Internet connection was cheaper than a moderately priced movie ticket, and not much more than the cost of an air letter to the USA. An hour's connection via Internet in 2001 was cheaper than a short long-distance phone call to Delhi had been just 14 years earlier.

    Only one Hollywood film played in Banaras over the 15 months that I lived in the city from 1986 to 1987, and it failed to attract large audiences to the minor, dusty, back-alley theatre in which it ran for just a week. Fourteen years later, Hollywood films played in well-appointed theatres in runs that sometimes lasted for months.

    In 1986 and 1987, state-run television programming still enjoyed a monopoly. During those years, the serialized rendering of the religious epic Ramayana was just beginning to attract substantial audiences to television. The men whom I interviewed in 1987 described watching the serial with reverence befitting a sacred performance. By 2001, dozens of satellite channels, from CNN to MTV, had become available. While, in 1987, even rich Banarasis could not access cable television, by 2001 even some non-élites were cable subscribers.

    In 1987, India was such a closed economy that only Indian-made watches, cars, and scooters were readily available. By 2001, economic liberalization, which had begun in earnest in 1991, produced shelves stocked with Barbie dolls, cellular phones, and global brands (like Nike, Benetton, and DKNY). On city streets, Western icons like tennis players Anna Kournikova and Pete Sampras, pop singer Mariah Carey, and many others appeared on posters celebrating Western products like Reebok shoes.

    Certainly, Banaras had always encountered transnational flows. By 1987, tourists from around the world had long been visiting the sacred city along the river Ganges, music shops sold pirated Madonna and Michael Jackson cassette tapes, and pirated videocassettes of Hollywood films were available to the tiny number of people with VCRs. But the volume and speed of transnational connections increased markedly over the course of the 1990s.

    When I returned to the smaller north Indian city of Dehra Dun in 2001, a decade after having worked there in 1991, I encountered a media and consumer landscape transformed by economic and cultural globalization. In 1991, the Indian government intensified a policy of economic liberalization which stimulated the availability of Western consumer goods, American films, and satellite television in India. But when I worked there in the summer of 1991, Dehra Dun had yet to experience these changes. While the number of middle class homes with television sets was expanding, televisions were still relatively rare and state-run programming on a single channel was the only offering. The biggest television hits were still the weekly Hindi film and the program devoted to Hindi film song-and-dance scenes.

    Just a decade later, dozens of cable channels were available and nearly 70 percent of the non-élite, non-English speaking men whom I interviewed had at least some access to cable television. In the summer of 1991, no Hollywood film played in Dehra Dun's cinema halls, but over several months in 2001 the main offerings at the city's two most élite theatres were Hollywood action films and films aiming at softcore titillation that had been dubbed in Hindi. As in Banaras, cellular phones, Mariah Carey CDs, and Benetton clothing were being sold in Dehra Dun's shops.

    Certainly, Dehra Dun, like Banaras, has a long history of global connections. For decades, the city's Doon School has attracted élite students, some of whom travel abroad. Even in 1991, posters of Samantha Fox, a Western sex symbol, were commonly sold in Dehra Dun's streets. But the volume and speed of global movements increased to unprecedented levels over the decade of the 1990s.

    The studies I conducted in Dehra Dun and Banaras prior to the economic and cultural globalization of the early 1990s showed that most Indian men shared a collectivist orientation which was reflected in a commitment to joint-family living and arranged marriages. The upper-caste, non-élite middle class men whom I interviewed in Banaras in 1987 voiced nearly universal support for arranged marriages, joint-family living, restrictions on women's movements outside the home, and male dominance within the home. Most of these men saw male dominance in the home as a distinctive feature of Indianness. Most also embraced a collectivist orientation which focuses on following the guidance of elders in a family. The mostly young and unmarried male filmgoers whom I interviewed in Dehra Dun in 1991 voiced similar support for arranged marriages and restrictions on women's movement outside the home, even as they watched Hindi films which celebrated love marriages and women's freedom of movement. These men explicitly distanced themselves from cinematic celebrations of love, saying that such love would be unworkable in the joint-family situation, and praised heroines' commitment to family duties.

    As I continued to present this research at academic conferences through the late 1990s, I began to hear of changes in Indian men's gender arrangements and cultural orientations. Conference-goers (often of élite background in India) spoke of the increasing number of Indians who reject arranged marriages and limitations on women. “Everything has changed,” one global Indian academic told me at the Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, in 1999. “Everyone has Barbie, now,” she added as an illustration of these changes. Articles in the English-language press (which are, of course, directed at the 5 percent of Indians who speak English) asserted that such changes were taking place. These articles described men as doing housework and childcare (Chandran 1996: 70), work which the men whom I interviewed between 1986 and 1991 saw as an exclusively female task. The English-language press described men as comfortable with women bosses (ibid.: 70), while the men whom I had earlier interviewed were strongly attached to male dominance in the workforce. Men and women were said to accept dating as a common part of life even for young teens (Jain 1998), while the men whom I interviewed saw dating as impossible.

    Some in the mainstream press attributed such new attitudes to the greater availability of Hollywood productions on cable (Jain 1998), in theatres (Ray 1998), and to changes in Hindi films, which increasingly celebrated urban Westernized lifestyles and consumerism, and which showed heroines in clothing styles (like miniskirts) which in previous eras would have been rejected as excessively revealing (Chakravarti 1998; Chopra 1997). Indeed, Hollywood productions and the Hindi films that are influenced by them have celebrated consumerism, individualism, and greater freedom for women, which would be unacceptable by older standards of morality.

    Yet, it was difficult to estimate from press reports the extent to which gender culture was being transformed by new possibilities presented by the opportunities associated with economic flows and contacts with transnational people and media. The English-language press relies on a readership of educated, high-income people who are most able to take advantage of the opportunities associated with globalization. Each time I had previously returned to South Asia (in 1987 after five years away, and in 1991 after four years away), many reports of change that I had heard from media reports or from Indian friends based in the USA had proved to be exaggerated. It seemed significant to me that the same English-language press that spoke of change also described simultaneous and widespread resistance to cultural change—especially where it related to women's modesty and family orientation.

    When Valentine's Day celebrations grew in popularity because of cable music channels such as MTV and Channel V, supporters of both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vowed to ban such celebrations. Bal Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena, asserted that such celebrations were part of an exhibitionist American culture, while activists from the Congress party burned Valentine's Day cards, claiming that the cards were opposed to Indian traditions. In Delhi, activists attacked couples in hotels and restaurants, forcing them to flee, while in Kanpur they blackened the faces of hundreds of couples who were celebrating Valentine's Day (India Abroad 2000a). In Kanpur, the youth wing of the BJP succeeded in persuading the principal of a Kanpur college to bar college women from wearing jeans and skirts, an action which was protested so violently by some women that the college was forced to close for two days (India Abroad 2000b). Protesters have also targeted a Xena episode and the Hindi films Fire and Hey Ram as well as other media productions for allegedly defaming Hinduism (India Abroad 1998, 2000b; Tsering 1999).

    As scholars recognized the transformed cultural landscape associated with accelerating transnational global flows of people, media, and economy, they began to suggest that people's lives would be transformed as well. Arjun Appadurai (1996) famously suggested that people around the world can now imagine a wider set of possible lives than they ever did before, disrupting people's sense of the givenness of their culture. Yet, we have surprisingly few studies that actually try to examine how people's culture and social life have been transformed by globalization.

    In 2001, I gathered data to try to understand how economic and cultural globalization had transformed cultural understandings, class and gender systems, and family institutions in India by replicating a study I had conducted there a decade before. It was the year 1991 in which economic liberalization and cultural globalization began in earnest in India, but when I did my research in the summer of 1991, the landscape of the city of Dehra Dun in which I worked had not yet been radically transformed. So, in 1991, none of the men I interviewed had cable television or had seen a Hollywood film, while a decade later a solid majority enjoyed transnational media products. The ability to make a systematic comparison between men's gender culture in these two eras offers a unique opportunity to understand the effects of globalization.

    My main aim is to examine the effects of globalization on common Indians. I soon discovered that while the lives of élite Indians were transformed by the new opportunities associated with economic liberalization, the lives of non-élite Indians were characterized more by continuities than by changes. This suggested that the effects of purely cultural globalization were relatively minor as long as economic and family structures were not simultaneously transformed. By examining changes associated with globalization in India, this book ends up improving our understanding of the causal dynamics associated with cultural change. In the process, I try to offer an improved sociological theory of culture. In addition, the book tries to better understand the operations of class and gender dynamics in a global environment.

    The empirical basis of this study is the comparison of interviews with 32 young film-going men that I conducted in 2001 with 22 similar interviews conducted in 1991, as well as with my more extensive research conducted in 1987. I believe that many studies of transformation in India have overlooked men like those I interviewed—men of modest means and limited English-language skills who have more comforts than the poor but who have not been able to take off with the global economy. This book begins with a comparison of my 1991 and 2001 interviews, but draws on other research to describe the effects of globalization on more affluent Indians and on women, and to confirm that my findings have a broader applicability among people of the class I interviewed, a class I will come to call the “locally-oriented middle class.”

    Readers will be interested in how Indians have responded to ongoing globalization in the years since I conducted this study. The main contribution of this book, though, is to use a comparison of changes in one locality to improve our theoretical understanding of the effects of globalization more generally. This book argues that globalization's primary effects on people occur through new economic opportunities rather than through new cultural imaginations, and suggests, then, that further changes would follow from continuing changes in economic opportunities.


    I wrote this book in 2002 while I was a Rockefeller fellow at the Office of Women's Research at the University of Hawaii Manoa. The University of Hawaii offered just the environment to complete this work. The soft breeze and smell of flowers pervaded my life as I analyzed the 2001 data. My biweekly hula lessons infused me with the energy to write this book. The Women's Studies Program, Department of Sociology, International Cultural Studies Program, South Asian Studies Program, and East-West Center welcomed me, and offered opportunities to present and discuss my work. I am especially grateful to Guobin Yang and Geoff White for discussions about cultural theory; S. Charusheela, Kalindi Vora, Monica Ghosh, Arindam Chakrabarti, and Miriam Sharma for discussions about changes in India, and Kathy Ferguson, Meda Chesney-Lind, Terry Greenfield, Ruth Gordon, and Mire Koikari for discussions of feminist theory. I thank them, as well, for making the University of Hawaii such a congenial place to work.

    I am grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for the fellowship that allowed me to write this book. Noreen Young and Konrad Ng were capable administrators who facilitated my work in Hawaii. David Gordon, Doug Harke, and Goria Dingledein helped facilitate the fellowship from my home base. I am grateful to SUNY–Geneseo for granting me leave to study as a Rockefeller fellow in Spring 2002, and for granting me sabbatical to conduct research in India in Spring 2001. A number of small grants from the College Senate helped pay for important costs associated with my work.

    I am grateful to the American Institute of Indian Studies for supporting both my 1991 and 2001 research in India. Thanks also go to the US Department of Education for Foreign-language and Area Studies fellowships that supported my study of Hindi and for a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation fellowship that first gave me the opportunity to work in India. I am grateful to the Department of Sociology at Delhi University for acting as my academic affiliation in 1986–87, 1991, and 2001. André Béteille (1986–87), Veena Das (in 1991) and Radhika Chopra (in 2001) were helpful sponsors. The comments of department members at a seminar I gave in 2001 were especially useful.

    The research could not have been completed without the research assistance of Narendra Sethi, who helped me conduct and translate interviews in Dehra Dun in 2001 (as he did in 1991). His sensitivity was essential in recruiting many respondents, and his gentle voice seemed to provide respondents assurance and comfort. His keen knowledge of Hindi and English made translation of interviews a breeze.

    I have been helped by audiences at meetings of the Conference on South Asia, the American Anthropological Association, and the American Sociological Association. I am especially grateful to Claude Fischer, editor of Contexts, for comments that helped me revise a related essay. The comments helped me revise this book, as well.

    I am grateful for the substantial contribution by the SAGE team especially my Commissioning Editor, Elina Majumdar, and the Editor in charge of the project, Maneet Singh. Thanks are also due to Diya Dutta, Kajal Basu, Amrita Saha and Trinankur Banerjee for their help in the production process. The SAGE team helped with translations, caught factual errors, and suggested the need for important clarifications.

    Thanks to Arlie Hochschild, Ann Swidler, and Gerald Berreman for their consistent support over the years. Their work is always important, their encouragement is always there, and they always offer important commentary that has helped me rethink my claims.

    I thank Lisa Jadwin and our cats Bert, Ernie, and Elmo for putting up with my absences from Rochester, New York, USA.

  • Epilogue: The Effects of Economic and Cultural Changes, 2001–07

    In the fall of 2007, as this book was going to press, I was in Dehra Dun doing interviews to understand Indians' conceptions of wellbeing. These interviews were not aimed at replicating my 1991 and 2001 studies, but at the time of this writing, I had interviewed 17 men aged 18–26—a group that parallels the bulk of film-goers whom I had interviewed in 1991 and 2001. With the aim of reflecting on the changes since 2001, I also did at least one participant-observation session in five of the seven theatres operating in Dehra Dun in 2007. In this epilogue, I consider the ongoing impact of the economic and cultural changes in Dehra Dun. This consideration of subsequent changes and continuities, 2001–07 confirms the primary significance of structural factors in rooting culture, class, and gender.

    The largest structural change between 2001 and 2007 is the improving economic position of the local middle class in Dehra Dun. At the national level, India has experienced robust economic growth and a surging stock market. Credit, nearly impossible for the local middle class to obtain in 1991, has greatly expanded. At the local level, in 2001 Dehra Dun was made the (temporary) capital of the newly-formed state of Uttarakhand, introducing more economic prosperity and growth into the region. The effect of this economic growth has been to improve the situation of the local middle class. With credit available, the age of homeownership has declined from the higher 40s to the mid-30s (Pioneer 2007a), and purchases of motorcycles and even automobiles has entered the possibilities of the local middle class. Thus, local middle class people may feel increasingly secure.

    For instance, my Dehra Dun research assistant, now working for a satellite news channel, is comfortable with his position in the Indian economy. Of the men whom I interviewed who had jobs tied to the local economy, only one retired individual expressed a lack of wellbeing stemming from his economic position (and his discontent stemmed more, I think, from having gifted his wealth to an ungrateful family).

    But the position of the poor has not changed much. Citing government reports, Uttarakhand's Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri (2007) says that for the bottom 30 percent of the population, there has been no perceptible improvement in cereal and nutrient intake in both urban and rural areas. The improvement of middle class status has reached relatively few. Only 14 percent of India's population earns more than Rs 8,000 per month (Indian Express 2007a). Only 24 people in 1,000 have personal computers and fewer than three in 1,000 have a broadband connection (Newsweek 2007). Especially significant is that infra-structural improvements have not reached many poor and rural Indians: 40 percent of India's population still lacks access to electricity (Indian Express 2007b: 1) and two-thirds still lack access to toilets (Aiyar 2007).

    It appears to me that one effect of the improving position of the local middle class in India has been an acceleration of the sidelining of the producing classes in the cultural imagination of India. With the improving condition of the local middle class, theatre prices continue to increase and mainstream, big-money Hindi films increasingly present the situation of the more affluent classes and aim at audiences of more affluent Indians, especially in the metropoles and the diaspora. In Dehra Dun, audiences arrive on motorcycles or cars to openings of big-budget films like Om Shanti Om, sometimes paying up to Rs 1,000 for a black market ticket. Students at prestigious academies, often arriving on motorcycles, are the main audiences for youth-oriented films such as Goal and Jab We Met.

    There is less and less in the Hindi film world for less affluent Indians: while the Orient theatre has reopened, it has not been very successful attracting audiences to its main fare of low-budget Hollywood films dubbed in Hindi or low-budget Hindi films. Kanak theatre, with a budget price of Rs 20, was most successful in attracting poor filmgoers by showing low-budget old-style masala films (for example, Jang) or revivals of Amitabh Bachchan classics (for example, Sholay). The Sunday afternoon all-male audience that I observed watching the low-budget Mithun-starrer Jang still escaped the realities of day-to-day life: laughing at humor, cheering at fights, whistling as the heroine was tied up, clapping as women beat up men and, as they were beaten up, laughing and talking at onscreen banter, especially as an onscreen speaker took someone else down—participation that I rarely observed at films catering to middle class Indians or aspiring students. Nonetheless, poor or laboring Indians are increasingly absent in theatres—both on and off the screen—especially at screenings of the most popular Bollywood films.

    Pankaj Mishra (2006: 175) rightly observes that “small town audiences with their cut-price tickets and queues of eager young fans don't matter as much as they used to” now that “bit profits come from… multiplexes of the big cities … and the NRI circuit.” Previously, Hindi films had to appeal to a broad, diverse audience (see Derné 2000a: 45–49) and filmmakers tried to reach the “masses” and the “classes” simultaneously (Ghai 1991: 6). Today, films appeal to narrower segments, and the number of cinema halls is declining (Indian Express 2007c).1 The declining breadth of Bollywood films' appeal means there is one less thing to integrate less affluent Indians into the broader culture. With the improving position of the local middle class, the producing classes are less apparent in Hindi films and in Hindi film audiences, accelerating their marginalization in the popular imagination, which I described in Chapter 3.

    Nor has there been much improvement in the structural conditions that disadvantage women in India. Indian women's participation in the labor force remains low at just 36 percent, compared to 84 percent of men. Thus, the World Economic Forum ranks India as one of the 10 worst countries in the world in terms of the gender gap in economic participation and opportunity (Ramasubbu 2007). A UN agency reports that because of prenatal sex selection and aborting of female fetuses, the sex ratio increasingly favors men: in 2001, 108 boys were born per 100 girls; in 2007, 120 boys were born per 100 girls—a problem that is worse in the urban areas (Pioneer 2007b).

    As a result, perhaps, I did not observe very much that suggested substantial changes in gender arrangements between 2001 and 2007. Systematic counts in markets showed roughly 10 times as many men as women in public places, and that roughly 10 times as many women wear saris and salwar-kameezes rather than jeans and pants (although jeans and pants are now prevalent at some cinema hall screenings). A local middle- and upper-middle class housewarming party I attended had an exclusively male guest list and was gender-segregated: women were inside the home, while men remained outside, eating snacks, in a tented enclosure—a space not one woman entered during my several hours there. I heard preachers in gurudwaras railing against “micro-minis” and jeans for young women. While there are many women in the balcony seats in cinema halls that screen movies aimed at attracting large numbers of dating couples (for example, Jab We Met) or attracting middle class audiences (for example, Om Shanti Om), cheaper seats are still overwhelmingly filled with men. While I observed more young couples dating in cinema halls, and two of the men whom I interviewed (as of this date) were in, or had been in, a dating relationship with a woman, more often young people were having their marriages arranged.

    The largely working class audience at the Kanak theatre still responded enthusiastically to male violence, whistling as a heroine was tied up, or clapping as women were slapped or a villain displayed a revealing photo that he was using to blackmail a woman. More than 150 cases of eve-teasing—public sexual harassment of and threats to women—are reported each month in Dehra Dun, and few of the perpetrators are brought to justice (Shukla 2007). While all the 52 men—whom I approached in public places or workplaces—agreed to be interviewed, only nine of the 18 women I asked were willing to be interviewed, perhaps reflecting the continuing threat to their reputation that could arise from being seen with unrelated men, a lack of ease in interacting with unrelated men due to often segregated schools and workplaces, and/or the continuing pressure of women's disproportionate housework responsibilities.

    Finally, perhaps because economic opportunities for children of the local middle class remain uncertain (even as the economic position of those with local middle class jobs improve), and because joint-family living remains common, the sociocentric cultural orientation that I described in Chapter 2 appears firm. As of this date (25 November 2007), I have interviewed 17 men aged 18–26 years in connection with a study of Indian conceptions of wellbeing. Eleven of them were raised largely in families that included more than one couple of their parents' generation, or older. Five men in this age group were laborers or in jobs below local middle class status (for example, jaggery-seller, cook). While the other 12 men in this age group were of local middle class background, a large number were students who had not yet themselves obtained middle class jobs. Perhaps because of their common joint-family background and the continued existence of economic insecurity, all but two of these men expressed views consistent with a cultural focus on group over individual that I described in Chapter 2.2

    Thus, a 19-year-old male Punjabi student, living in Dehra Dun for his studies, speaks English well, sports cosmopolitan fashion, and rides a motorcycle. Although embracing a consumer lifestyle, his discussion of wellbeing shows a strong sociocentric focus on others: when I asked him his purpose in life, he described his motto as to “enjoy living for others. Even while you do your own work, the taste in doing another person's work is the best taste.” Snapping his fingers, he described how he immediately helps out his friends, even if they called him at 2 am. Growing up in a joint family that included his parents and his grandparents, and describing his family as facing economic insecurity despite his prosperity, this young man was living with the family and economic structures that support a sociocentric cultural focus, a connection I described in Chapter 2.

    A 21-year-old working in Dehra Dun as a news reporter and pursuing a college degree, hails from a large family that he describes as fully joint. While he takes pride in his news reporting—and especially aims to combat premodern superstitions—his main purpose, he says, is to always help others: “I should never do any work that causes unhappiness to anyone. Any work I do should be selfless. I am not concerned about my own happiness. But whatever I am doing must deliver happiness to the person standing next to me.”

    An 18-year-old Scheduled Caste student from a large joint family with 30 members has come to Dehra Dun to study. While he describes the recognition of his personal academic achievement at an assembly as a source of wellbeing, his main cultural orientation is clearly sociocentric: when I ask him about his aim in life, he says that it would be easy to “enjoy the money sent by the parents, to be self-centered, and think about myself. But real happiness lies in fulfilling the dreams of my parents.”

    An 18-year-old who sells jaggery outside a theatre came to Dehra Dun at the age of 13, having only passed the 5th standard. His orientation to wellbeing also focuses on society rather than the self. When I ask him what wellbeing means, he says that he is only happy if everyone is happy. “When people talk well to each other, I gain happiness,” he says. He describes the festival period as good for sales, but still connects his happiness during this period to the joys of others: “A festival is associated with being happy with each other and greeting the customers with cheer. This leads me to experience happiness.”

    A 22-year-old student, in Dehra Dun for studies, lives in such a large joint family that he has to pause to count its members on his fingers. He describes watching Bollywood films as his hobby, yet doesn't focus on individualistic joys, saying that “the meaning of wellbeing for me is to see my parents happy and make them happy because they've done a lot of things for me until now.” Continuities in structures of family living and economic opportunity militate against fundamental change in the sociocentric orientation I described in Chapter 2.

    The Hindustan Times calls Dehra Dun one of India's “new boom towns” (Parashar 2007). The seat of the state capital and possessing élite educational institutions, Dehra Dun has experienced more economic prosperity than other cities, rising with India's economic growth. Still, even in this city, placed well to benefit from globalization and India's economic growth, there are nonetheless significant continuities in the cultural orientation and gender culture of the young laborers and local middle class men whom I interviewed in the fall of 2007—continuities rooted in persistent economic and family structures that include gender arrangements that disadvantage women.

    This consideration of changes in Dehra Dun (2001–07) confirms this book's focus on how changes only follow from globalization if social structures are transformed. The improving structural position of the local middle class has accelerated the cultural sidelining of the producing classes described in Chapter 3, while perhaps decreasing some of the tension in local middle class men described in Chapter 4. But the main feature I observed in 2007 was cultural continuity rooted in persistent structural realities. Thus, women's limited economic opportunities, coupled with the static condition of the poor and the continuing economic uncertainty of the children of the local middle class, contribute to men's embrace of a culture of male dominance despite contrary messages in the global media. Moreover, as long as economic opportunities remain limited and joint-family structures remain solid, the cultural orientation of most Indian men remains sociocentric, despite new media that celebrate individualism.


    1. While the number of cinema halls in Dehra Dun was stable between 1991 and 2007, the population has grown from about 2,00,000 to about 6,00,000 (Parashar 2007).

    2. The two who did not express a sociocentric orientation also didn't express a clear individualistic orientation. The interviews were not designed to capture the person's cultural orientation.


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    About the Author

    Steve Derné is Professor of Sociology at SUNY-Geneseo. His Culture in Action (1995) explores the interconnections between cultural orientations, family structures, and emotions in North India. His Movies, Masculinity and Modernity: An Ethnography of Men's Filmgoing in India (2000) considers how film viewing shapes family, emotion, sexuality, and male dominance. He has just begun a study of conceptions of well being in India. He is the winner of the 1991 Stirling Award for outstanding paper in psychological anthropology. He is the winner of a 2004 Chancellor's Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Fulbright Program, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.

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