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Accepted Paper:

Politics of online abuse: an anthropological critique of hate speech debates  
Sahana Udupa (LMU Munich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the proliferating abusive speech on social media in India, to develop an anthropological critique of hate speech debates.

Paper long abstract:

In the last decade, the legal-regulatory terminology of 'hate speech' has become salient as a category to take cognizance of the volatile debates expanding in cyberspace. The term predefines the effects of hate speech as negative, and the regulatory rationale as control and containment. This paper examines online political cultures of nationalism and the raging debates on Internet censorship in India, to develop an anthropological critique of hate speech debates. Far from predetermining the effects of online speech as vilifying, polarizing or lethal, the paper analyzes the cultures of digital use that make volatile speech a compelling form of communication online. It develops the emic category of 'gaali' to signal the blurred boundaries between comedy, insult, shame and abuse emerging on online media. Cautioning against the regulatory excess peddled through the uniform templates of 'hate speech' and notions of incivility that underwrite the efforts to curb online speech, the paper argues for a typology of online volatile speech which maps the context of digital use, histories and public cultures of speech forms and variation in user motivations. Such a typology, it suggests, is one way to address the contradiction between censoring violent speech by dominant voices and the need to protect freedom of expression.

Panel P056
Digital media cultures and extreme speech
  Session 1