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Guest Lecture Event - Prof. Dr. Sahana Udupa

Prof. Dr. Sahana Udupa

Professor of Media Anthropology at the Ludwig Maximilian University

News from Apr 10, 2019

Fun and Precarity. An Ethnography of Online Vitriol and Disinformation


3pm - 5pm

Hörsaal D, Henry-Fort-Bau

Garystraße 35, 14195 Berlin

Contrary to common assumptions that online hate speech is an inevitable outcome of unmoored social media where vicious anonymity trumps all other possible subjectivities, I present in this talk a complex scenario of precarious labor, manipulation, and fun that lies behind right-wing populist cultures online. I will first scan a select set of ethnographic case studies across the world, to understand what makes digital social media one of the strongest allies for xenophobic and anti-immigrant nationalism currently holding sway even in countries where no such strong histories existed. I will then focus on India, and highlight how digital war has become the new frontier for right-wing nationalist mobilizations. The wide-angle comparative view as well as the up-close field view, both rooted in ethnographic sensibility, emphasize that online extreme speech should be seen as a political culture that lies at the intersection of data capitalism, global online practice, and precarious labor of uneven liberalization. The paradoxical combination of fun and precarity set in a “postcolonial stasis” reveals what makes the “dark” side of the Internet not an easy site that can be polemically dismissed or normatively assessed using predetermined categories, but a complex tangle that should be understood in all its evolving tactics and shifting contours with the finest of ethnographic tools available at our disposal. 


Sahana Udupa researches and teaches digital politics, news media, media policy and urban politics. She is Professor of Media Anthropology at the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich, where she leads a five-year research project on digital politics funded by the European Research Council:  HYPERLINK "http://www.fordigitaldignity.com" www.fordigitaldignity.com. She is the author of Making News in Global India: Media, Publics, Politics (Cambridge University Press, UK, 2015) and co-editor of Media as Politics in South Asia (Routledge, London, 2016, with S. McDowell). She produces and co-hosts the podcast on digital media, “Online Gods” (with I.M. Cook).  

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