Epsita Halder

Social Media Research Workshop, August 12, 2016


As part of the third and final cycle of Sarai’s Social Media Research Fellowship, since March this year, short-term research fellows have been studying different aspects of digital and social media. On Friday, 12 August, 2016 we are organising a workshop for the fellows to present and discuss their research with a select group of discussants. Limited seats are available to take part in the workshop. To register, please fill up this…

Decree and Devotion: Sacred Property on Internet


I took a murky turn between the Sunday market on Biplabi Rash Behari Bose Road and the Portuguese Church that is called the Portuguese Church Lane. Behind the white church, in the lane teeming with resting pushcarts, small shops and old shabby buildings, I found my address – 10, Portuguese Church Lane, Kolkata 700001. It was a typically dilapidated building whose façade could not be fully seen from where I stood, it overwhelmed my field of vision. There was an A3 sticker on a closed part of the door that spoke about martyrdom and I was sure that it was the front gate of Haji Kerbalai Imambara…

The Attentive Heart and Its Apparatuses – Facebook, Bluetooth, WhatsApp


Ayesha befriended me at our Arabic preliminary class. An English literature student, she caught my eye in the university corridors as not many burqa-clad girls take admission in Jadavpur University. Recently, after five-six years when I found her using WhatsApp, we started exchanging messages. Last October, I was elated to see her using panjtan pak[1]as her display picture during Muharram. I thought I’d now get to know from a university educated woman what affect binds religion to technology. No, she was not a Shia but reaffirmed that “we, who claim to be Muslims, all mourn the death of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet. But, we, the Sunnis, do it differently. We are not so… physical”…

Mourning Martyrdom on Facebook: A Cyber Imagined Community


I was watching a video post on the Facebook wall of ‘Calcutta Azadari’ where religious practitioners were beating their chests to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and uttering his name in rhythm. A religious performance captured on camera doesn’t make us wonder anymore, thanks to television and the proliferation of channels. But in this video, the position of the camera person was curious. It is undeniably difficult to capture on camera the intense frenzy of mourning, but here, the video, shot by a member of the group with a handheld camera, gave the footage a compelling authenticity raising, at the same time, the question of how far a non-ritualistic act could be accommodated within…

Media and Mobilization: Digital Media and the Shia Public Sphere in West Bengal


For the past 20 years, globalization and new media have been influential in shaping the religious landscape of South Asia. The Shia imagination, even in the remotest villages of Bengal, was first fired by the era of anolog technology via cassettes and then caught in the web of digital media. This is a phenomenon more apparent in the traditions of Muharram, as the Shia religious morality enacted through mourning over the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD re-creates the community’s historical-narrative basis. Within 200 years of the historical event, the story/history seeped into the domain of the community’s narrative imagination…

Short Term Research Projects in Social Media: Selected Proposals 2016


The Sarai Programme is committed to developing a public architecture for creating knowledge and creative communities. In keeping with this commitment, we seek to develop a community of scholars, writers and practitioners who are motivated to make the materials and outcome of research available for public access and circulation, with the understanding that an imaginative… Read More