Sarica Robyn Balsari-Palsule (UCL) - 2020-21 Students

Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds: The Politics of Visual Representation of the Parsi Community in Mumbai

The Parsis are a small ethnic minority traditionally living in Gujarat, but primarily located in Mumbai. They are adherents of the Zoroastrian faith and emigrés who fled Persia in the eighth century due to the threat of Islamic conquest. The community has experienced one of the most dramatic declines in population ever recorded outside Europe, due to low nuptiality, strict endogamy and high emigration. Exploring the politics of visual representation, my research seeks to understand how individual identity and social relations within the Parsi community in Mumbai are mediated and constructed through visual imagery, in particular, through photographs. The complex predicament of Parsi decline provides the impetus for my research. The aim is to capture the nuances of identity construction in community struggles for survival and to understand the differences in the social configuration and representation of Parsi public and private selves. Using visual documentation through photography and film, this ethnographic approach offers specific opportunities to develop an emic understanding of Parsi identity. This doctoral research therefore has an overarching aim to explore the hidden and wider cultural concerns of the community as embedded within photographs and the subsequent relationship engendered between past and present, memory and reality.

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