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Following the Pagla Jahaj ['the crazy ship']: The inevitable journey towards the un/familiar

Tuesday 20 June 2023
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

Discussing hierarchies of knowledge in global academia

This is the first of a series of events intended to discuss hierarchies of knowledge in global academia, and how these can be challenged, which also takes into account how Western knowledge institutes position themselves in relation to doing research on and with Asia.

"My mother come from India, my father also... She said she come from Basti Zilla in 1914, and the ship name was Pagla Jahaj or something like that" : Miriam Gajadhar while talking about the songs sung by "old people who come from India" in Jahaji Music: India in the Caribbean  2007

Each of the participants to this event is invited to write a short (creative) reflection in response to it. We can use an etherpad to ensure that we jointly write. The output can become a blogpost, a podcast, or something else creative. If you can, please watch the documentaries preceding this meeting.

The two quotes from my films on music and migration underscore uncharted journeys and precarious lives. Since the mid-nineteenth century, forced migration has moved people across the globe, shaping tenuous relationships with the idea of home and belonging. 



"The buildings here are load bearing ... that means they are illegal": Ramanuj Pathak describing his neighbourhood in Bidesia in Bambai 2013

The presentation

My presentation is on two films made in 2007 and 2013 to reflect on my ethnographic fieldwork around culture and identity framed by journeys (past and present), imagined homelands and contemporary lives. My research for the 2013 film, Bidesia in Bambai, grew out of my struggles with trying to edit more than 80 hours of material shot in Jamaica and Trinidad. Making sense of the multiple and competing histories embedded within the music of the Caribbean led me to continue my research on the musical culture of Bhojpuri migrants in Mumbai. Bhojpuri is a language and the term for the people of a region in Northern India. Migration to the colonies in the Caribbean since the mid-nineteenth century was also largely of people from the same region. My research in Mumbai, the city I call home and am most familiar with, led me to interrogate the ways in which musical culture is shaped, transformed and dispersed to represent the tensions around identity.

About Surabhi Sharma

Surabhi Sharma is a filmmaker based in Abu Dhabi and Mumbai. She has worked on several feature length documentaries apart from some short fiction films and video installations. Her key concern has been documenting cities in transition through the lens of labour, music and migration, and most recently reproductive labour. Cinema verite and ethnography are the genres that inform her filmmaking. She is currently teaching in the Film and new Media Programme at New York University Abu Dhabi.


This even is organised by the Research Cluster Asia of the institute CADS.

Participation is free and open for all, please send an email to Erik de Maaker (maaker@fsw.leidenuniv.nl) if you would like to join. 

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