Folk, Oral, Indigenous, Popular Cultures

Home/ Folk, Oral, Indigenous, Popular Cultures
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Discipline CoreSUS1EN2634

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon Semester 2018

Course Coordinator and Team: Diamond Oberoi Vahali

Email of course coordinator:diamond[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None


This course aims at interrogating the dynamics of the oral, the indigenous, the folk and the popular. It will also attempt to sensitize students towards the linkages between these categories and their relation with the written word, the mainstream, the ‘high’ culture and ‘representative’ aesthetics and the ‘official’ art and literary forms of a people. As the categories dealt with in this course are extremely complex and often highly debatable, students will be given a critical and a theoretical insight into these debates.

Course Outcomes:

  1. The course will familiazire the students to the folk, oral, indigenous and popular art forms and literature.
  2. Students opting for this course will develop deep insights into culture and its vast diversity as well as into varied forms of literary expressions.
  3. The students shall be able to look at the manifestations of these practices in their day to day lived realities and productively engage with them


Brief description of modules:

Module I

Critical, Conceptual and Theoretical frameworks

This module will develop a theoretical and a critical framework for the course as it will provide the fundamental basis on which it is based. Basic theoretical readings on all the four concepts will be included in this module.

Module II: ORAL

The oral as a literary form is distinct as it travels across time and space, across the borders of various forms and in the process becomes a dialogic means through which the epics and the myths speak to each other. All literature, no matter in what form it is written, embodies within itself elements of the oral. The concept of the oral as the storehouse of a culture’s collective memory, from where in the primal myths and narratives are passed down to generations, needs to be developed. This module will focus on the concept of orality in literature. It will discuss a number of origin myths from around the world besides focusing on Sufi, Bhakti traditions. It will also focus on oral literatures from the North East and other tribal literatures.


A related category to the oral is that of the indigenous which emerges from the idea of the Aborigine culture and tradition and involves oral forms of narration in the native tongue of the group. This literature refers to renderings that exist and circulate primarily within a tribe or a community. Indigenous forms are linked inextricably with closed communities and therefore, with issues of ethnicity.

This module will develop the concept of the Indigenous by discussing indigenous literatures from around the world, specifically from India, Native American literature, African indigenous literature and Australian Aboriginal Literature.

Module IV: FOLK

Folk forms are distinct from the indigenous because they are artistic expressions of the people of a particular geographical region. Propagated in the vernacular of a region, folklore voices the concerns, often even mundane and routine in the form of stories, songs, dance, dramatic performances, paintings, riddles, jokes and proverbs. Just like the indigenous, the folk also is integrally tied up with the oral. This module will include folktales, folksongs, films based on folktales as well as a few theoretical readings. Itwill also discuss folk songs and folk music specifically from India.


The Popular is seen often as the more commercial, pervasive and mass media based younger cousin of the folk. The popular is distinct from the folk in terms of its tremendous reach to a huge audience often through media like films, television, radio, cheap paperbacks, comic books, cassettes, compact discs and now even internet. Folk lore often acts as an important source for the popular. As a cultural category the popular is fraught with politics of consensus and commerce. It has also been problematized as a space where blatant cultural homogenization is encouraged.

This module will theorize on the concept of the popular. It will try to trace the genesis of the popular from within the dynamics of the folk. The module will focus on a few popular films, music, novels and graffiti.

Assessment Details with weights: Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments); There will be four assessment situations; Class Participation 15%, Group Presentation 20%, Class Test 30%, Research and Creative Document 35%. The pattern of assessment is subject to revision depending on the composition and size of the class.

Reading List:

  • Bourdieu, Pierre.Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.
  • Georges, Robert A. and Michael Owen Jones. Folkloristics: An Introduction.
  • Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.
  • Bettelheim, Bruno. Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Alfred A. Knofp, 1976.
  • Dundes, Alan. Essays in Folkloristics. Meerut: Folklore Institute, 1978.
  • Jung, C.G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.
  • Levi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. 2 Vols. London: Allen Lane, 1968.
  • Pawling, Christopher. Ed. Popular Fiction and Social Change. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1984.
  • Ngugi wa. “Notes Towards a Performance Theory of Orature”. Performance Research 12.3 (2007): 4-7. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. <>
  • Verses by Bhakti/ Sufi poets