Taking Centerstage: The Impact of Bollywood's Rise on India's Soft Power

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

David Earnest

Committee Member

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

Jennifer Natalie Fish


While the American government has often made good use of its 'soft power' in promoting its image throughout the world, it was helped by the global acceptance of Hollywood cinema and other American cultural exports such as music like rap and hip-hop, basketball, and fashion. Over the past decade another counter-culture is on the rise and it's coming from India. It's one of the fastest growing economies of the world, a robust democracy, and plays host to one of the biggest cultural influences in the world, Bollywood cinema. This dissertation looks at the rapid rise and success of this counterculture by studying the impact of Bollywood on four countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, the U.S., and the U.K. The study poses the following research question: With the global rise of the reach, popularity, and economic success of Bollywood over the past two decades, has Bollywood's increasing global appeal changed India's interests and opportunities, and did the rise of Bollywood on a global scale result in a corresponding rise in India's soft power? The research design included analyzing Bollywood's impact on the above-mentioned four states — two developed states (U.S. and the U.K.) and two developing states (Nigeria and Pakistan). Each of the four case studies analyzed the rise of Indian soft power by using four key parameters which helped measure this rise: gender relations, tourism, trade, and cultural and diplomatic exchanges. The findings from the study indicate clearly that there is a clear rise in the profile, awareness, economic success, and influence of Indian soft power by way of Bollywood, not just on the four states, but also in different parts of the world. There is also substantive evidence to show that India's interests and opportunities also changed, and for the better, with the rise of Indian soft power, by way of Bollywood cinema.


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