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Presented By: Weiser Diplomacy Center

Cultural diplomacy and Bollywood's soft power in China

How Bollywood megastar Aamir Khan and the 2016 film Dangal helped reduce India-China tensions

Dr. Swapnil Rai Dr. Swapnil Rai
Dr. Swapnil Rai
At the height of the 2017 border skirmish between India and China over the disputed territory of Doklam, Bollywood megastar Aamir Khan’s film Dangal became a means to de-escalate tensions brewing on the Sino-Indian border. Dr. Swapnil Rai, Assistant Professor in the University of Michigan Department of Film, Television, and Media, will discuss how his reception reveals perceptions about China and India’s parallel modernities while also illustrating India’s intangible soft power through the circulation of Bollywood as a malleable cultural form. The case of Aamir Khan reveals an alternative framework for soft power that is neither hegemonic nor state-centric but marshaled by individuals operating within industry-driven frameworks.

Dr. Rai's research focuses on global media industries, networked cultures, and their intersections with questions of policy, politics, and audiences. Her research on Aamir Khan contributes to a novel understanding of stardom and cinema’s affective power within debates about global media flows, cultural diplomacy, and new cinephilia discourses.
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