"Approximately 52 seconds: the time of prior commitment"

Religious Diversity Colloquium Spring/Summer 2017

  • Date: Jul 12, 2017
  • Time: 14:00 - 15:30
  • Speaker: William Mazzarella (University of Chicago)
  • William Mazzarella is the Neukom Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 2001. His work deals with the political anthropology of mass publicity. He is, in addition to a broad range of articles on media, aesthetics, affect, and crowds, the author of Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India (2003), Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity (2013), and The Mana of Mass Publicity (2017). He is also the editor of K D Katrak: Collected Poems (2016) and the co-editor, with Raminder Kaur, of Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction (2009).
  • Location: MPI-MMG, Hermann-Föge-Weg 11, Göttingen
  • Room: Library Hall
"Approximately 52 seconds: the time of prior commitment"
Co-sponsored by the Department of Religious Diversity and the Max Planck Research Group “Empires of Memory“


For more details please contact vdvoffice(at)mmg.mpg.de.

In his lecture, William Mazzarella begins from the Indian Supreme Court’s December 2016 order, making the playing and solemn observance of the national anthem compulsory before all cinema shows. Exploring both the longer history of and public reactions to the order, he focusses on the curious way that it proposes that the national anthem both ‘reflects’ and ‘instills’ patriotic sentiment. William argues that we are in the presence here of a problem that has haunted social theory since its inception: the problem of prior commitment. Which is to say: the problem of how to understand (and reproduce) the forces that, apparently, commit us to our social worlds prior to the relationships that constitute them. Or to put it differently: what is the attachment that secures attachment? He suggests that an important symptom of this problem, as it emerges in present-day India, is the seemingly senseless insistence on policing the duration of performances of the national anthem: by official order, approximately 52 seconds.

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