Performing Bollywood in a Roma camp

Robert Stock will be speaking about “Performing Bollywood in a Roma camp” and the documentary The Queen of Silence (dir. Agnieszka Zwiefka, 2014) in Copenhagen this week during the workshop “OUT OF SPACE? Erratic, ephemeral & emerging cultural practices in illegal, illegitimate or intangible locations”.

The symposion is organized by the Sound Studies Lab & the research group Sound & Senses at the University of Copenhagen with the Chair of Visual and Media Anthropology, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, at Heidelberg University. Please find out more about the programme here.



This talk will discuss how a Roma camp near a Polish city is transformed into a “temporary space for social experiments”. The camps of Sinti and Roma can be considered locations “on the fringes of society”, articulating hence processes as well as politics of exclusion. Such encampments symbolize fragile existences, uncertainty, improvised housing and precariousness. Often, these sites become targets of administrative measurements or are demolished.
In the case of The Queen of Silence (2014) by Agniezska Zwiefka, the Roma camp is a site as described above. However, the collaboration of Zwiefka and Denisa, a girl living in the camp, make it a different experience. Denisa is not only an “illegal citizen” but has also a hearing disability. There is an attempt, to make her use a hearing aid, in order to normalize her hearing and enable her to speak properly. But the attempt fails due to various reasons, that is, the assistive technology turns out not to function in this specific environment at the margins of neoliberal and pedagogical contexts of action. What is instead at stake in the film, is a form of ‘inner listening’, which is staged with cinematographic and audiovisual means suggesting that moments of “joy” are indeed possible, even on such remote places as the camp of the Roma. These moments are staged in a playful manner in several scenes, where the protagonist and other people of the camp enact performances of Bollywood dances. By realizing these choreographies, the film does not only offer Denisa an ephemeral escape from the harsh reality and adds an interactive dimension to its narrative of daily routines in and around the camp. It also draws on a popular aesthetic of the genre of music videos and therefore advances an alternative perspective on how Roma settlements might be understood.
The talk will bring together perspectives from disability studies, film studies and sound studies in order to discuss the mentioned documentary film as a crucial example for the audiovisual production of in-/exclusion, social inequality as well as (non-)hearing and alternative appropriations of Bollywood.

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