Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2022 Recipient – Donna Susan Mathew

I started my doctoral program at the Rhetoric, Theory and Culture department at MTU in the Fall of 2017. Prior to joining MTU, I obtained a dual master’s degree in Global Media and Communications from the London School of Economics and the University of Southern California.

My research focuses on the representation of women in contemporary “item songs” in Hindi cinema, also known as Bollywood, and how these songs reflect and reinforce patriarchal attitudes and perpetuate and contribute to a growing rape culture in India. Bollywood is considered one of the biggest cultural influencers in India. Bollywood films and music play a major role in influencing people’s perception about love, romance and consent. In recent years, the Bollywood film industry and the item song genre present in these films have come under public scrutiny for their sexist, misogynistic and stereotypical representation of women as sexual objects that cater to the male gaze. Bollywood plays a huge role in the social sexualization of the youth in a conservative, patriarchal society like India where women’s role is often relegated to the household. My research seeks to understand the phenomenon of item songs and why they are a seemingly mandatory element in Bollywood cinema. My dissertation also looks at the discourse surrounding rape culture in a number of arenas in Indian society such as the legal, social, cultural, political and media landscapes. 

I would like to thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for bestowing upon me the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship. The fellowship will allow me to focus entirely on completing and defending my dissertation this Fall. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my co-advisors, Dr. Diane Shoos and Dr. Stefka Hristova, for their guidance, support and encouragement throughout my research journey.