In his book The Globally Familiar: Digital Hip-Hop, Masculinity, and Urban Space in Delhi (Duke University Press, 2020), Gabriel Dattatreyan departs from the existing literature on masculinity in India, which on largely middle-class, upper-caste embodiments of the same. His focus is on non-elite, urban, lower caste/class embodiments of masculinity, in the context of globally familiar soundscpaes, images and aesthetics. There is an interesting way in which the author provides a nuanced understanding of the “other”, which takes into account the heterogeneity of those who are usually lumped together in the category of that “other”.

The book provides not just caste, and regional contexts for these “working class” men but also lays out the generational shifts in the “aspirations” and future imagination of these young men. This futurization of urban participation then is highlighted in conversation with the official, policy and bureaucratized imaginations of the urban and urban Delhi in particular. In doing so, the “other” emerges as not just the passive recipient of the imaginations imposed on them by people in power but as being capable of refashioning and materially reimagining urban spaces as well. The internet and social media in particular emerge as critical sites of global engagement for the young men, who are Dattatreyan’s interlocutors and collaborators. Social media is not simply a site for getting familiar with and consuming that which is global but also the site for producing this familiarity in creative ways. It is through the labor of these young men taking immense pain to aesthetically re-produce the globally familiar that these circulations take on meaning. These re-creations and embodied re-productions also become sites of traversing newer and older forms of inequalities as well as creating political disruptions through the use hip-hop aesthetics.

Lakshita Malik is a doctoral student in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on questions of intimacies, class, gender, and beauty in South Asia.

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