Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Brave New World? The Possibilities and Pitfalls of New Media Activism in India

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Mahogany, First Floor

This paper will consider the evolving Indian cyber-public and its potential for social justice activism. Currently, large-scale battles for control over the world's youngest and increasingly digitally active demographic are in full swing — by private corporations (Facebook and Reliance), as well as ideologues who wish to control the "idea of India." This is intertwined with governmental initiatives like Digital India. 

As Nishant Shah (2015) points out, the linkage of the digital with the automatic assumption of empowerment does not take into account the multiple axes of oppression — caste, class, gender, sexuality, religion — that continue to operate. One way of examining the multiple forces at play is to examine recent examples of new media activism that seek to bring various systemic oppressions prevalent in Indian society to the forefront. One of the more innovative approaches has been the use of popular cultural texts and tropes with various individuals using comedy and music to grab attention such as Sofia Ashraf's parodic rap "Kodaikanal Won't." Each of these texts is produced along a continuum which sees the digital as a platform for amplifying various critiques of Indian society. It is my contention that they also interact with each other to bring into being a kind of postcolonial cyberspace. Using ideas of postcolonial cyberspace as theorized by Maria Fernández (1999), Pramod Nayar (2008), and Nishant Shah (2015) I will examine the extent to which this postcolonial cyberspace both enables and restricts the possibility of social change and pushback against hegemonic social forces in an Indian context. 

Rukmini Pande

O.P. Jindal Global University, India

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