Media and the Constitution of the Political
This project is supported by M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies ‘Metamorphoses of the Political’
The thematic module, Media and the Constitution of the Political, is the seventh, and most recently formed in the modular organisation of the International Centre for Advanced Studies: Metamorphoses of the Political (ICAS:MP). The module addressed a diversity of topics and methods to explore media as an integral aspect of life, and the distinctive way it configured the political as a field of sensory engagement. We proposed research into the uses of print media, photography, film, television, video and digital media, sound technologies and cultures. The module, also known as TM7, privileged a focus on the technological and material affordances, how cinema and television, books, files and paper and online texts, gramophones, audio and video cassettes, compact disks, audio files and closed circuit tv, microphones and loudspeakers channelled information and affect. A focus on a machine-driven 21st century media, and its significance for agency and memory, was also signalled. Institutions and industries were to be key sites, from media schools and studios cultivating journalists, filmmakers, sound-designers and editors to data analytic start-ups, from courts of law to forensic labs. We encouraged research into media deployment not only in formal politics, but in unexpected and unsettling irruptions of the political, as in media panics that circulated hate and fear, but also in social media interventions that unsettled a new dominant, for example through a multiplication of internet broadcasts that challenged media corporations during the huge farmer’s agitation that erupted around Delhi in 2020-2021.
Starting in July 2018, the module had a “seed” phase of three years, to be focused on research projects and workshops. After an inaugural workshop in June 2019, which enabled us to develop a module membership to oversee our activities and outputs and to select fellows when TM7 acquired full modular status in July 2021, the pandemic prevented further physical meeting until quite recently.
Apart from module fellowships a research a research team supported by TM7 from July 2018 in Delhi has been housed in the Sarai programme of the CSDS. This team has worked on individual projects which came willy-nilly to be part of two broad themes: Media and Publicity, and Law and Media. Weekly meetings of researchers, regular research diaries, and field/archival work shaped the work of the module. By 2020 the covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns set up a constricted environment for field research. The pandemic began easing only by the Spring of 2022. In spite of these difficult conditions, the module has been remarkably productive. Two important edited books have emerged from the module: Media and the Constitution of the Political by Ravi Vasudevan, and Acts of Media, by Siddharth Narrain. Researchers have written peer reviewed articles, online academic texts, while more essays are under process with journals for eventual publication. Two unique sets of researcher diaries have emerged from our ethnographic sites. Collections of research materials have been curated, the scope of which will expand in the coming period.