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“dirty words”: law, media, and language in the AIB roast

Arpita Ghosh
Assistant Professor of English
Ramananda Centenary College
West Bengal
This paper intends to investigate questions of affect, accessibility and pedagogy in engaging with
media and law. Drawing upon Lawrence Liang’s talk on dance and Copyright (Dance like a
Book: Copyright and its Conundrums) in which he theorizes an epistemological lack in
understandings of Copyright and its subject(s) of regulation that is aesthetic, ethical, and
affective at the same time, I hope to arrive at an understanding of the legality of public
performances and their afterlives in media spaces such as YouTube. Henry Jenkins’ work on
Convergence Culture as well as Martha Nussbaum’s theorization of affect in law will also be
important methodological tools for this investigation.
Traditionally, media and technology studies has sidestepped the questions of law and legality,
while legal formulations of media and public spaces do not mostly engage with issues of cultural
signification or critically employ ‘close reading’ practices of Culture studies. Hoping to bridge
this pedagogical and philosophical divide, my particular focus will be All India Bakchod’s roast
held in Mumbai on 20 December, 2014, and its subsequent afterlife on YouTube from 28
January, 2015 to 3 February, 2015. I view the deployment of a language of ‘controversy’,
‘disgust’, ‘being upset’, ‘obscenity’, and so on around the roast as demanding a greater and more
nuanced examination than is current – the framing of the issue has largely been in terms of
concerns over freedom of artistic expression, volition and access to such media spaces,
censorship, and so on.
Keywords: Publics, law, media, affect, convergence culture, urban.