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Accepted Paper:

Youtube and the platformization of hate in India: The case of ex-Muslims  
Oeendrila Lahiri Gerold (LUDWIG MAXIMILIAN UNIVERSITY)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is an ethnographic exploration of digital subcultures of Islamophobia in India, specifically on Youtube through the phenomenon of ex-Muslim voices and its appropriation by Hindu nationalists.

Paper long abstract:

While studies have documented a general decline in piety across religions over the past twenty five years, the incidences of individuals leaving Islam have been viewed in Islamophobic terms as a crisis of enlightenment within the religion. The broadbrushing of specific socio-political and spiritual motivations makes way for the global right to justify the othering of Muslims by weaponizing statements and beliefs of ex-Muslims. In all of this, what has been emergent yet understudied is the internet’s role in enabling subcultures of anti-Muslim discourses via the amplification and appropriation of ex-Muslim voices.

In this paper, I study the Hindutva subculture centered around two ex-Muslim “personalities” who have amassed a substantial following on social media platforms in India. While some ex-Muslims face threats to life from orthodox Islamic sects, their online personas are committed to engaging other Muslims debating the (de)merits of Islam. However, a look at their comment section and related content channels through algorithmic suggestions will reveal one of their strongest draws is Hindutva supporters. The aim is to qualitatively map the reception and circulation of anti-Muslim views in this eco-system where the Hindu right meets the ex-Muslim by using online ethnography, critical discourse analysis, and semi-structured interviews. Further, by historically grounding the findings within pre-digital ex-Muslim discourses in the subcontinent, we hope to offer a contextually-grounded understanding of the dynamics of cross-cutting discourses and their impact on far-right political opinion-forming processes on the digital sphere.

Panel P036
Digital ethnography and experiences from the Global South
  Session 1