Sahana Udupa spoke at Georgetown University Qatar on “Debating the Nation: Social Media and Middle Class Politics in India” on April 17.
From Facebook to Twitter and myriad other platforms, the expanding social media have led to a vibrant debate culture among the middle class in India, sparking hopes of participation in the public discourse. In this talk, Udupa examined how the new media-fed debate cultures are shaping a fractured discursive field of “liberals” and “Hindu nationalists” in urban India, and feeding, thereby, a cantankerous form of national imagining on social media. No doubt the political trajectories of new media are irreducibly diverse in a country with more than 300 million Internet users. However, the middle class constitution of nation debates reveal the significance of online communicative cultures of gaming, abusive exchange and facticity. Middle class online debates in India qualify arguments about new media as radical tools for democratic participation, highlighting instead the limiting effects of what Nick Couldry and colleagues term as “proto-agency”. Udupa concluded with some reflections on the distinction between print nationalism and social media nationalism, to trace the ways that social media condition the utopia of national belonging through experientially voluntary, continuous, confrontational, and peer-to-peer networks in quasi-public forums.
The qatari online newspaper albawaba business has published an article about her speech.