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This essay presents a critical social history of the context in which the Felix van Lamsweerde Collection came together. Felix van Lamsweerde (b. 1934), a Dutch collector, cultural anthropologist and impresario, extensively recorded Indian expressive cultures in the Netherlands and India between 1963 and 2005. This collection was digitised and catalogued between 2017 and 2020 at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv in Germany as part of a German Research Foundation (DFG) project. It includes a wide range of first-hand and commercial audio/video recordings of music, dance and theatre genres from across India along with accompanying notes, photographs, and a vast collection of books, magazines and journals. Van Lamsweerde’s journey into studying musics of India and the collection itself points to how India’s cultural politics evolved in the immediate decades following its independence from the British in 1947. Whilst historicising the colonial, oriental and nationalist legacies of music collection in India, this essay examines the Van Lamsweerde Collection and archival projects at large through a source critical approach. It attempts to demonstrate the ways in which caste, class, gender and racialisation processes and the sound archive shaped one another in the formation of transnational cultural representations of India. Drawing on discussions in ethnomusicology, social theory and archival studies, this essay offers an interpretation of how musical knowledge and a homogenous construct of Indian culture has taken shape in Western European and American academe.
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