Running Naked and Unmasked in Goa: Pleasure in the Pandemic




Goa, India, Economic Liberalisation, Tourism, Hippies, Bollywood, COVID-19 pandemic


In November 2020, Indian celebrity Milind Soman posted a picture of himself on social media, which showed him running naked on a beach. He was charged with obscenity. This article considers the time and place of Soman’s act over the alleged impropriety. The photograph was taken on a beach in Goa, the tropical setting serving as a pleasure periphery to India which annexed the region in 1961. Accordingly, a longer history of states of undress in Indian advertising, filmmaking, and tourism are considered here to apprehend how Goa has been posited in the Indian imagination as a destination for wanton self-gratification while local realities are undermined. The article thus interrogates what it means for Goa, whose economy is overly dependent on tourism, to serve as a vacation spot during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when, in 2020, it had among the highest number of virus-related deaths in the country (Dias, 2020, par. 4). Using the metaphor of the celebrity who has no qualms about running naked and unmasked in Goa, this article enquires into what such events leave unrevealed in the economic requirement that some locales function as holiday destinations, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Author Biography

R. Benedito Ferrão, The College of William and Mary

R. Benedito Ferrão is an Assistant Professor of English and Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies at William and Mary (Virginia, USA) and a Fellow of the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence at Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (University of Bayreuth, Germany). He is the former recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Research Award, a Mellon Faculty Fellowship, and an Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2017-18, he curated the exhibition Goa/Portugal/Mozambique: The Many Lives of Vamona Navelcar at the Fundação Oriente gallery in Panjim, Goa, and edited a book of the same title to accompany the retrospective (Fundação Oriente 2017). His scholarly writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Research in African Literatures, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, and Society and Culture in South Asia. An internationally published writer of fiction, non-fiction, and public commentary, Ferrão’s work can be read in, The Wire, João Roque Literary Journal, and Mizna, among other publications.


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How to Cite

Ferrão, R. B. (2021). Running Naked and Unmasked in Goa: Pleasure in the Pandemic. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 20(1), 134–156.