‘Dubai’ as a Place of Memory in Malayalam Cinema

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2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is an exploration of cinematic memory as a resource for remembering large-scale Keralan migration to the Gulf since the late 1960s. The south Indian state of Kerala, which predominantly speaks Malayalam, is a major contributor to the migrant labour force in the Gulf region for the last five decades. However, until recently, the migrant figured in the public discourse of Kerala as an economic agent alone. There has been increasing instances of memorialising the Gulf in the Malayalam public sphere since the beginning of the 2000s which brings to light the subjective aspects of the Gulf migration. However, what is lost in these accounts is the simultaneity and interlinked nature of the two places. Cinema, on the other hand, offers resources to inscribe the mutuality of the two places in the collective memory of Kerala. Invoking Pierre Nora’s concept of places of memory, the paper looks at cinematic renditions of ‘Dubai’ as one such site of memory in the present when the image of Dubai and the profile of Keralan migrant has undergone a shift. Taking the example of one Malayalam film, Pathemari (Salim Ahamed, 2015), and tracing its cinematic genealogy, this paper analyses the ways in which ‘Dubai’ is remembered and how this remembrance inscribes the Gulf as part of the collective memory of Kerala. The paper identifies the persistence of filmed space, intertextuality, and the archivality of the star body as the modes in which cinematic memory achieves this collective memorialisation. The mutuality between Kerala and Dubai, offered by cinematic memory, allows it to be an act of affective citizenship on the part of the migrants, i.e. embodied and sensorial acts of claiming the universal right to have rights.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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