Accepted Paper:

Future as aspiration: new media politics of aspiring 'New India'  
Sahana Udupa (LMU Munich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores ‘aspiration’ as an important mediated modality of future, and an essential sign of a media-fed modern subject in liberalizing India. It examines how aspiration has paradoxically fuelled its presumed polar opposite – right-wing Hindu nationalism drawing on digital resources.

Paper long abstract:

In the last two decades, the rapid expansion of media in India has led to a surge of discourses around what is presented as 'legitimate aspiration' of the alert citizens of 'New India'. In the media discourses, the alert citizens demanding a new future are no longer 'mere victims of state neglect' but ready on their toes to bring the state to account. The discourse of aspiration has taken many forms, most prominently the vision to cleanse India from the stranglehold of corrupt politics, to usher an era of clean governance. This paper shows how the expansion of social media is crucial in fuelling the aspirations of a clean and prosperous 'New India' of the future - a discourse that originated not with the social media but the rapid growth of private print and television media in the mid-1990s. Exploring how the received discourse of aspiration has shaped political debates on social media, the paper turns a critical eye on one particular case - the growing salience of right-wing Hindu nationalism among the net savvy urban youth. The paper unravels the troubling puzzle on how the avowedly non-ideological discourse of aspiration supplied the performative resources for its presumed polar opposite - online Hindu nationalism. The paper reveals that this seemingly inadvertent consequence of mediated aspiration is deepened by the sense of empowerment felt by the net savvy Hindu youth who see digital infrastructure as a means to trump the dominance of organized media, dubbed as dubiously secular and a hindrance to the aspired future of a Hindu state.

Panel P065
Media futures: media anthropology of, for and through the notion of 'future' (Media Anthropology Network)