Centre for Internet & Society

Details of a session proposed by Dr. Shubhda Arora, Dr. Smitana Saikia, Prof. Nidhi Kalra, and Prof. Ravikant Kisana for the Internet Researchers' Conference 2019 - #List.


Internet Researchers' Conference 2019 - #List - Call for Sessions

Session Plan

#PowerListing: Approaches towards an understanding of power dynamics of knowledge creation and agency behind ‘listing’ as exercised by the State, Individuals and Corporations

‘Lists’ come with an ontological mandate of organising information in a structured and hierarchical manner. This has a deliberate aspect with respect to the question of power. Our panel attempt to investigate the question of power in terms of who wields it and what implications, philosophically and materially, this lands on the stakeholders thereof. The questions of power have different insinuation when the agency of the ‘listing’ rests with the state, the individual or if it is folded within the operational matrix of a corporate service.

Our panel attempts to bring all these myriad conversations together to try and unpack the various nuances of this discussion on power around ‘lists’. Listed below is the detailed breakdown of this plan:

Paper 1: Digital Lists and List-making in Post-disaster Contexts [Prof. Shubhda Arora]

Looking at crowd sourcing of lists for humanitarian and relief purposes, this paper explores list making and circulation in a post-disaster context, specifically looking at aspects of public list making and its challenges of credibility and duplicity. The paper further examines the interaction between these ‘unofficial’ lists and intervention agencies namely the Government, Army and NGOs, which prepare their own ‘official’ lists for purposes of relief and rehabilitation. Lists of missing people, of people being marked safe, of relief material and centres, of monetary aid, of loss in terms of human life, land and money are the different kinds of lists prepared and circulated through media like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram among others. The constant revision of lists based on localized information and on-ground data, the compilation of master list from various sources of lists and the problem of ‘fake lists’ need further inquiry to understand digital list making after a disaster.

Paper 2: Identity frameworks and #MeToo in India [Prof. Nidhi Kalra]

When Lawrence Grossberg argued that "Cultural studies needs to move towards a model of articulation as 'transformative practice', as a singular becoming of a community", he likely did not anticipate what became the #MeToo movement. Concerns of identity-transformation, community creation, and activism spread over social has been termed as arm-chair slactivism. Yet, we are witness and participant in a movement whose terrains and possibilities are forming as we read and write. Just a few hours before writing this piece news came of Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo claims that she is wary that the movement will need "to shift the narrative that it’s a gender war, that it’s anti-male, that it’s men against women, that it’s only for a certain type of person — that it’s for white, cisgender, heterosexual, famous women. That has to shift."

In the Indian context, #MeToo has been the vehicle of a movement with many identities linked to it--from scholars, politicians, celebrities, to Dalit female students, to women and men in the Media industry. Considering it is such a historic moment in internet history, it is important for us to use the lens of cultural studies to ask what this wave of activism does vis-a-vis identity production/transformation? What the sites of contestation around the concern of identity as it used in the #MeToo movement in India? This talk will hope to open dialogue about recording, transcribing and understand this moment and it's frameworks of identity.

Paper 3: “Making” the (ethnic) citizen: NRC list as State power and anxiety [Prof. Smitana Saikia]

In borderland regions of modern nation states, the ontological status of legal subjects is often fraught with competing assertions. In India’s northeastern state of Assam, this is particularly true due to a historical movement of peoples from Bangladesh (then East Bengal/Pakistan). Assam’s own nativist movement against “illegal” immigrants in 1980s (both popular and an armed resistance) catapulted the issue into national prominence thereby reiterating the anxiety that nation-states feel while defining and interpellating its citizens, in an Althusserian sense. In this context, the NRC emerges as a tool to affect order in what remains a contested terrain of citizenship. This paper thus situates the NRC in the interacting landscape of the Indian nation-state’s attempt to “identify” (and hence create) citizens on one hand, and on the other, the Assamese elite’s attempt to create the ethnic “other” to consolidate and preserve political power. The paper argues that the state’s need to create a register (list) of citizens is at once a display of its hegemonic power, as it is also reflective of an acute anxiety inherent to projects of constructing (nation-) states.

Paper 4: ‘Congratulations you got a match’-- The embedded listing within the dating app ‘Tinder’ & its implications thereof [Prof. Ravikant Kisana]

The process of ‘listing’ involves the act of segregating and organising data. This involves questions of power. Who makes the lists and to what end— the state or the subversive, with what motivations, are important points of investigation and discussion. However, such an operational understanding of a ‘list’ assumes a mechanical agency in the ‘listing’ process. This paper looks to investigate the digital apps and services which are based on automated listing and hierarchical segregation of its subscribers. Google, Facebook, Uber, etc— all contain within the folds of their operational code, an algorithmic listing of data. The researcher will seek to explore this nuance in the context of dating app ‘Tinder’, which now offers three levels possible dating matches that have been ‘listed’ and curated automatically. This paper will seek to interview users of the app and try to map the ideas and anxieties around such a digital listing of their very identity profiles.

Session Team

Dr. Shubhda Arora is currently working as assistant professor of media and communication at FLAME University, Pune after having completed her doctoral studies from MICA, Ahmedabad . Her doctoral thesis is in the area of Environmental and Disaster Risk Communication.

Dr. Smitana Saikia is an assistant professor of Politics at FLAME University, Pune. She has received her PhD from King’s College London and her thesis studied long term state and identity formation processes to explain conflict in India’s northeast. Her research interests include ethnic conflicts, borderlands, federalism, and caste and electoral politics in India.

Prof. Nidhi Kalra has been a learning facilitator since 2008. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities at FLAME University, Pune. Prior to that, she has taught at the English Department in Savitribai Phule Pune University and Gargi College in the University of Delhi. Nidhi has received her MPhil in English Literature from the University of Delhi, for which she worked on problematizing Holocaust memoirs. Her research interests include Memory Studies, Trauma Studies, Oral History, Digital Humanities, and Children’s/Young Adult Literature.

Prof. Ravikant Kisana is currently the Co-Chair of Humanities & Languages at Flame University, Pune. He has previously completed his doctoral studies from MICA, Ahmedabad. His doctoral research focused on the oral histories of Bollywood cinema in Kashmir, and its intersections with Kashmiri nationalism and resistance. His areas of research focus on the sociology of cinema, gender & sexuality intersections with films & new media platforms, as well as investigations into the structural mores of cybercultures.


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