media, information, the contemporary

Sarai Reader 08: Fear

Sarai Reader 08: Fear Sarai Reader 08: Fear


Modernity’s great promise – the freedom from fear, now lies in ruins. One can argue that this vision was always compromised – modernity (especially in the form that emerged in the West, under Capitalism) always hid its own fears, and hid from its own fears – the fear of epidemics, of urban panic, of the homeless multitude and of criminal activity. This led to a drive for transparency: for separating the civic from the criminal, the civilised and the barbaric peoples, the human from the non human, life from the machine. With the advent of the mass slaughters of the 20th century, where more died than ever in recorded human history, this promise lay shattered. Today, the drive for transparency has been rendered doubly difficult, with new mobile populations, new networks, new previously unimagined terrors. Sovereignty seems an antiquated slogan of the past, and in the wake of the financial shocks of 2008, there seems to be some substance in the contention that Western capitalism has entered a phase of possibly long term decline.

Today’s opacity brings with it a new sense of enduring fear. Not necessarily the terror of sharp and sudden shocks alone, but of the slow mutation of our lives and our times into mine-fields of uncertainty – personal, social and political – that we try and side-step blindfolded.

This gingerly navigation across surfaces that might slowly erode to suddenly give way under our feet marks almost every aspect of our lives. Our world has become a nervous system. We do not trust the weather, the air, the water we drink, the food we eat, the blood that courses through us. We even have misgivings about the experts who reassure us on prime-time television about the trustworthiness of the value of our money or the colour of our dreams. Everything, from the small talk that lubricates sociality to the small print that pads contracts, comes laden with disclaimers. We are always, everywhere, from bedrooms to classrooms to laboratories, offices, fields and the street, taking cover…


Editorial Collective: Monica Narula, Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Jeebesh Bagchi.

Design: Amitabh Kumar.


The entire book can be accessed and downloaded from the Sarai archive.


Preface – Editorial Collective


Ventilator – Ivana Franke

Fear is a Hieroglyph Fractal Repeated on Different Scales – Claudia Roselli

Temporary Authoritarian Zone: Paul Virilio and the State of Fear – John Armitage

Politics, The State and the Tragedy of Fear: Connected Fragments from Europe to South Asia – Atul Mishra

Symptomatic Values beyond the Romantic – Markus Miessen

fear / fIr / II / fie(r) / n. Uncountable or Countable – Andrés de Santiago Areizaga

Just Fear Not Just Reason – Rahul Govind

Industrial Landscapes – Media Lab, Jadavpur University


Who’s Afraid of Voting? The Inexpressible Nature of Some Fears – Subuhi Jiwani

My Fear Begins Where Your Fear Ends – Ambarien Alqadar

When a People Settle/Re-Settle – Zainab Bawa

The Cow Ate It Up – Amitabh Kumar


Bethlehem – Jonathan Watkins

Otondro Prohori: Guarding Who? Against What? – Naeem Mohaiemen

Converstaion on Locating Conflict – Nanna Heidenreich & Nicole Wolf

Dirt and Dust: A Lover’s Letter – F. Zahir Mibineh

Within the Circle of Fear: Field Notes from Iraqi Kurdistan – Francesca Recchia

Fear Yourself More than the Other – Agon Hamza

On Idealists and Realists: A Memory of Fear, Silence and the 1990s Yugoslav Wars – Maja Petrović-Šteger

Graves: Buried Evidence from Kashmir – Angana P. Chatterji, Parvez Imroz, Gautam Navlakha, Zahir-Ud-Din, Mihir Desai, and Khurram Parvez

Fear, Sexuality and the Future: Thinking Sex (Panic), Monstrosity and Prostitution – Svati P. Shah

Police States, Anthropology and Human Rights – Nandini Sundar


On the Usefulness of Anxiety: Two Evil Media Stratagems – Matthew Fuller & Andrew Goffy

Three Miles from Anarchy: Managerial Fear and the Affective Factory – Jamie Cross

Data Sphere – Adnan Hadzi

Factoring Fear: Investigations into Media(ted) Fear – Sandhya Devesan Nambiar

Fear in Neo-Kaliyuga: Epistemic Troubles in Techno Smrti Times – Kaushik Bhaumik

Changing Scenes – Moinak Biswas


The Apparel of Anxiety – Aarti Sethi

Feared Body – Agat Sharma

The Ninth and Final Ode to Life – Nupur Jain

Nine Pages on Disquiet – Priya Sen

Radiosity: A Short Philosophical Novel – Roberto Cavallini

Fear, Inequity and Time: A Sketch of How Art Answers the World’s Questions – RAQS Media Collective


A Reply to Terrorism on a Wednesday: A Citizen Vigilante’s Prescriptions for Governing Terrorism – Rahul Mukherjee

Myth, Legend, Conspiracy: Urban Terror in Aamir and Delhi-6 – Kuhu Tanvir

Fear on Film: The Ramsay Brothers and Bombay’s Horror Cinema – Kartik Nair

“I Swear It’s Not a Cow…”: The Eerie Glow of Television Screens in America’s Heartland – Angela Anderson


From Anxiety to Enthusiasm – Slavoj Žižek in conversation with Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Without Fear or Favour – Ashis Nandy in conversation with Shuddhabrata Sengupta


Fearless Speech, Fearless Listening – Cybermohalla Ensemble


Notes on Contributors

Acknowlwdgements and Credits