Indian Comics as Public Culture

The Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) series of comic books have, since 1967, dominated the market for domestic comic books in India. In this thesis, I examine how these comics function as public culture, creating a platform around which groups and individuals negotiate and re-negotiate their identities (religious, class, gender, regional, national) through their experience of the mass-media phenomenon of ACK. I also argue that the comics, for the most part, toe a conservative line – drawing heavily from Hindu nationalist schools of thought. In order to demonstrate these arguments, I examine selected groups of ACK titles closely in the first two chapters. I perform a detailed content analysis of these comics, considering the ways in which they draw upon history and primary texts, the artistic and editorial choices as well the implications of these decisions. In the third chapter, I draw a picture of the consumption of these comics, studying the varying interpretations and reactions that fans across generations have had to the works, connecting their conversations to my argument about ACK as public culture. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate the extent of ACK’s role in the popular imagination of its large readership as well as the part it plays in the negotiation of their identities as Indians.

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