Dr. Virinder Kalra
The three main areas of my research are: racism and ethnicity in relation to popular culture and policy; theoretical engagements with diaspora and postcolonialism; and popular culture in South Asia. I have made significant and consistent impact in these arenas, influencing and shaping academic and public debate. The co-authored book Diaspora and Hybridity is a critical intervention in debates in cultural studies in relation to conceptualizing two key ways of understanding identity and migration. This theoretical perspective has been most effectively utilized in pioneering work I carried out on British Asian musical cultures. This interest in the performative aspect of cultural identity is also central to my latest book looking at music and religion (Sacred and Secular Musics, Bloomsbury Press). In this text I engage a postcolonial analysis with the field of ethnomusicology, forwarding the role of the native musician as the interpreter and conveyor of religious texts. This inverts the normative accounts of musicians in South Asia which place them at the bottom of the social hierarchy and also of religious hierarchy in which texts are given a superordinate role. The wide range of my academic work is underpinned by an account of processes of resistance through the gambit of cultural and political organising. Adopting a Gramscian framework that takes the imbrications of culture and politics as point of departure, the multiple sites that I have researched on share a concern for people’s organising in the context of social cleavages along the lines of race, gender, class, caste and nation.