Theses Doctoral

Songs of Action, Songs of Calm: Rabindranath Tagore and the Aural Fabric of Bengali Life in America

Banerjee-Datta, Nandini Rupa

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is often considered the most important literary figure in modern Bengali history. He lived through the transformation of Bengali culture and society from colonial to anticolonial to post-colonial times. Tagore was a playwright, novelist, philosopher, and songwriter. He wrote and composed nearly 2,500 songs, called Rabindrasangeet. My interlocutors ascribe Tagore’s songs with a particular affective strength that has become a medium for the construction of diasporic identity.

In this dissertation, I explore the lives of three generations of women – from precolonial Bengal, post-independence Bengal, and the modern diaspora – and the types of movement they have experienced. I identify a rupture between the familiar and the immediate that accompanies their movement, and characterize this rupture as creating space for multiple identities, reflections, and intimacies, and the continuous building, dismantling, and rebuilding of culture.

I argue that the genre of Rabindrasangeet forms and reforms in the diaspora through embodied processes of micro-level performance. Through friendships, kinships, inter-generational relationships, and technologically mediated connections, Rabindrasangeet remains present. It is a tool for self-making, and used to convey unspoken feelings in a gendered world.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Fox, Aaron Andrew
Ciucci, Alessandra
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 4, 2023