media, information, the contemporary

The Sarai Programme, CSDS

Over the last two decades, the Sarai programme at CSDS has arguably been South Asia’s most prominent and productive platform for research and reflection on the transformation of urban space and contemporary realities, especially with regard to cities, data and information, law, and media infrastructures.


Sarai began work in 2000 on issues of media, urban life, and the public domain, at a time when such issues were hardly on the horizon in India. In addition, Sarai brought together academics and practitioners in a new dialogue and collaboration. Sarai was initiated by Ravi Vasudevan, Ravi Sundaram , both faculty at CSDS; and the Raqs Media Collective (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula & Shuddhabrata Sengupta). Sarai’s early research foci on urbanization, media life, and information are now part of any serious thinking about the contemporary. Since its inception, Sarai has initiated research projects on media urbanism, Cybermohalla, critiques of intellectual property, free software, art practice and the public realm, language and the city, and many others.

It has supported unique independent fellowship programmes, and held a host of events including conferences, workshops, and performances.  Like all experimental research initiatives in India, Sarai has seen cycles of expansion and contraction, involving the dispersion of some nodes and the emergence of new sites and publics.

Sarai’s current projects address the larger themes of media archeology, infrastructure, data and law.

Sarai has generated regular publications. These include the widely circulated Sarai Reader series, graphic novels, the urban classic Trickster City, and researcher broadsheets. Practice based works have also emerged from Sarai’s fellowship projects and the Media Lab.

Sarai is the home of the academic journal BioScope. This is a blind peer-reviewed journal focusing on film and  media studies, with an additional interest in image and sound practices.

Sarai’s recent projects include:

> Objects, Media Technologies, Aesthetics and Politics: Material Histories and Cultural Imaginaries, India c. 1940-1960

> Media and Information Infrastructures: Histories and Contemporary Practices

> Ethnographies of Social Data

> Law and Social Media

> Social Media: Contemporary Histories and Archaeologies

> Hinglish: Social and Cultural Dimensions of Hindi-English Bilingualism in Contemporary India

> Climate Change and Uncertainty: From Below and Above


Sarai’s Publications

BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies

One of Sarai's publication ventures is the academic journal BioScope. This is a blind peer-reviewed journal being published by Sage Publications biannually since January 2010. It is primarily centred in the areas of film and media studies, but also engages a wider orbit of image and sound practices.

The Sarai Reader

The Sarai Reader book series has been widely recognized as a site for critical and creative thinking. Previous Readers include:

> Sarai Reader 01: The Public Domain
> Sarai Reader 02: The Cities of Everyday Life
> Sarai Reader 03: Shaping Technologies
> Sarai Reader 04: Crisis/Media
> Sarai Reader 05: Bare Acts
> Sarai Reader 06: Turbulence
> Sarai Reader 07: Frontiers
> Sarai Reader 08: Fear
> Sarai Reader 09: Projections

Behrupiya Shahar

A collection of stories, biographies, conversations, blog entries, and reflections about the city of Delhi, published by Rajkamal Prakashan, 2007.

Trickster City

An extraordinary composite of writings on the city of Delhi, written over a period of two years by a group of 20 young people who live in different places in Delhi, and who have, over the last several years, sustained among themselves and with others around them, a relationship of writing and conversing about the city. Published by Penguin, 2010.