Visual Currencies: Documenting India’s Red Light Districts

  • Krista Geneviève Lynes
Part of the Global Cinema book series (GLOBALCINE)


New York-based artist Elahe Massumi traveled to India in 2000 to document the conditions of life of sex workers in New Delhi, specifically those workers most economically and socially vulnerable—children and members of the hijra community. One resulting multichannel video installation, A Kiss Is not a Kiss (2000), reveals the trade in children, bought and sold through bonded labor in the countryside and forced to work in abject conditions in urban brothels. The installation frames the four walls of the exhibition space.1 On each screen, multiple frames scroll past the viewer; in one, the image of sex between a young child sex worker and a john is positioned alongside the image of her shaking her head, refusing the kiss he insists on taking. The juxtaposition of images, like the title of the piece itself, signals that things are not quite what they seem, that indeed a kiss is not a kiss.


Sexual Violence Sexual Exploitation Visual Currency Transnational Capitalism Sexual Oppression 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Elahe Massumi, A Kiss Is not a Kiss, 2000.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, Born into Brothels, 2004.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Elahe Massumi, The Hijras, 2000.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Patricia Thomson, “Transforming Young Lives in Calcutta,” American Cinematographer 86, no. 2 (2005): 91.Google Scholar
  5. 18.
    Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” New Left Review I, no. 62 (1970): 2.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    Gayatri Spivak, “Woman in Difference,” in Outside in the Teaching Machine (New York: Routledge, 1993), 78.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    Bill Nichols, “Axiographics: Ethical Space in Documentary Film,” in Representing Reality (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 76.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 3–4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Krista Geneviève Lynes 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krista Geneviève Lynes

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations