In March, Sahana Udupa gave several talks about online debate cultures in India.
On 21 March, Udupa gave an invited talk entitled ‘Imagining the Nation on Social Media: Facts, Play and Politics’ at the Annual Anthropology Research Seminar, University of Bern, Switzerland. Examining the rise of online debate cultures in India, Udupa emphasized that social media discourses of nation and national belonging are shaped by specific political dynamics of national, and even subnational regions. She commented also on the “intriguing hold of shared global cybercultures” which she said merited closer scrutiny. Alongside elaborating on India, she alluded to cases in Austria and the US, and said the ‘content’ of online discussions of nationalism vary significantly. In the discussion that followed, the seminar raised questions on social media’s role in terms of evidence building, selective accountability, anonymity and intermediary liabilities.
Udupa then travelled to Bangkok, Thailand to participate in the India-Pakistan track II dialogue. During the discussions, she spoke in favor of a comprehensive policy and for the need for a more effective civil society response to forms of extreme speech proliferating on online media. Noting that online media have also led to narratives of peace and harmony between India and Pakistan, Udupa joined other delegates to stress the need for online networks that connect citizens and foster people-to- people conversations. The meeting in Bangkok was organized as part of the Chaophraya Dialogue series, a joint initiative of track two diplomacy that includes diplomats, academics, political leaders, and journalists. The initiative is co-steered by Dr. Happymon Jacob, Senior Global Challenges Fellow at Central European University and Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
On March 31, Udupa presented on nationalism and online debate cultures in India as part of the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) Research Seminar Series on “Youth Extremisms: Understanding across Ideological and Religious Contexts” hosted at Hochschule Düsseldorf.