Colloquium | Rahul Mukherjee

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 12:00pm

Rahul Mukherjee

microSDing Mewati Videos: Mobile Platforms and Informal Economies of Circulation

In Mewat (“land of Meos”), a region southwest of Delhi, Maulavis (religious preachers) prescribe a strict objection to consumption of visual images and yet supposedly notorious Mewati Videos are popular there. Such music videos circulate amidst the community’s tight censorship regime because producers deploy innovative publicity strategies. The most prevalent way of circulating these videos within the villages is through microSD cards that are procured from phone vendors (mobilewalas), which then make the videos amenable to be watched on mobile phones. The small and inconspicuous size of mobile phone screens and microSD cards (often carried in polythene covers kept in shirt pockets) ensure portability and aid youth to privately consume (and circulate) such videos, thus alleviating the risks of getting caught by village elders and/or religious men. Recently, China-made DVD players that have USB and SD card slots have also become popular. Operating between the stable and the ephemeral, between the celebrated and the censored, this subaltern-popular usage of mobile platforms fashions vernacular lifeworlds in informal economies. Based on fieldwork conducted along with design researcher Abhigyan Singh, we argue that the textual strategies and circulatory practices cannot be separated while studying video cultures because Mewati video texts anticipate circulatory practices of their own distribution.

Rahul Mukherjee is the Dick Wolf Assistant Professor of Television and New Media Studies at Penn. He completed his doctoral studies in Film and Media Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, with graduate emphases in ‘Technology and Society’ and ‘Global Studies’. His academic preoccupations often meander into imaginings about media’s role with(in) alternative futures for/of politics and technology. He has been a fellow at the Center for the Humanities, Utrecht University and a pre-doctoral fellow of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UCSB. Drawing on the conceptual lenses of cultural studies, media theory, and science studies, he has written on database management systems, advertising cultures of mobile telephony, Bollywood thrillers, development discourses, and translocal documentaries. He has been part of two collaborative projects related to mobile media practices: one concerned with the circulation of locally produced music videos in parts of India and the other exploring ICT usage in Zambia. Rahul’s work has appeared in New Media & Society, BioScope, Studies in South Asian Film & Media, Sarai Reader and Media Fields Journal. Rahul received the Nicholas C. Mullins award from the Society for Social Studies of Science in 2014. He is working towards theorizing the materiality of technoscience publics by studying mediations of environmental debates related to media infrastructures and nuclear energy.

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