media, information, the contemporary

The Social and Cultural Life of Information Workshop | November 14-16, 2013

The Social and Cultural Life of Information workshop was held in Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, on November 14-16 2013. It brought together a select group of media scholars, historians, anthropologists and geographers for an intensive two day workshop, and aimed at bringing together research on colonial and postcolonial information infrastructures, with a strong South Asian component.

Over the past decade information culture and technologies of identification have become part of popular discourse, as regimes roll out large modernisation projects aimed at populations and existing structures of governance. A growing body of scholars have turned their attention to the study of information culture and its history. Information infrastructure offers a material site to connect different bodies of scholarship across the disciplines.

The workshop was interested in connecting colonial strategies of identification, writing, and storage with recent debates. Questions of interest include information ecologies around paper, film, and recent digital storage systems. Equally, colonial information theories and contemporary arguments for digital governance may be one of the questions that could emerge in the course of the workshop. Technologies of writing, file notings, and digital algorithms in state and private databases are themes that may be brought in by scholars at the workshop.

Participants and Papers:

Brian Larkin, Barnard College / Columbia University
How to Spell Mohammedan? Note on Circulation, Standardisation & the Documentary Production of Empire

Keith Breckenridge, University of Witwatersand
Technological Inertia: The Politics of Privacy and the Failure of Anglo-American Biometric Registration

Lawrence Cohen, University of California, Berkeley
De-Duplicating India: On the Promise of Immateriality

Lawrence Liang, Alternative Law Forum
Of Hidden Cameras and Hidden Truths: Law and Visual Evidence in an Era of Digital Uncertainty

Miles Ogborn, Queen Mary, University of London
Speech Marks: Early Modern Information Geographies

Nayanika Mathur, University of Cambridge
Man-eaters of the Indian Himalaya: Identifying, Naming, and Hunting Big Cats in Uttarakhand

Radhika Singha, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Sentenced to Surveillance: Policing ‘Dangerousness’ in Colonial India, 1861-1918

Ramah McKay, University of Minnesota
Data’s Discordances: The Political Life of Medical Information in Maputo

Ravi Sundaram, The Sarai Programme, CSDS
Information, Transparency, and the New Urban Turn

Ravi Vasudevan, The Sarai Programme, CSDS
Cinematic Information in the Colonial Archive, 1940-1946

Solomon Benjamin, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Occupied and Possessed Cities: Territoriality, Information, and Techno-Managerial Politics

Sumandro Chattapadhyay, The Sarai Programme, CSDS
Of identity, platform, and ‘new’ information infrastructure of governance: Situating the Aadhaar project within the history of electronic governance in India

Tarangini Sriraman, Centre de Sciences Humaines
‘One Hearth, One Home, One Family’: Materiality and Affect in Urban Poor Enumeration


Download the abstracts and biographic briefs of the participants.

Audio recording of (most of) the presentations and discussions will be shared soon.