About (in lieu of a welcome note)

<< I am Head researcher of the Politics and Society division at the Centre de Sciences Humaines in New Delhi. This repository showcases textual and visual gems of a geek mixed methods ethnography in political science and sociology, focusing mainly on educated youth, representation and political becoming in contemporary India. The content revolves around a monograph in preparation on campus activism and Indian democracy, and introduces the curated material of an archival exhibition on student politics.
>> Theme-wise, the website is organised as follows: Youth activism as political self-fashioning, Political archives and the pamphleteers, Populist style as political representation, Political intermediaries, elites and subalterns, Ethnography of everyday politics in India, Text analysis, speeches and lifeworlds.
>> Content-wise, the following categories can be accessed: Publications, Collaborations, Datasets, Curation, Syllabi, Codes, Photography, E-library.
>> More about the author: Curriculum vitae, Contact.

Research grappling with politics navigates the messiness of the everyday, sketching abstract places, fields, frames, networks and other conceptual representations from complex and changing social phenomena, and packaging them to fit neatly into journals and printed volumes. While our castles of knowledge – and biases – grow well in such publication greenhouses, the delightful richness of academic evidence is lost along the way. Primary data is there relegated to unlikely appendices, archives are returned to dust, the subjective touch – encounters, subjectivities and epiphanies – is edited out, shots from the field are shunted aside, and inventive coding is stored somewhere on a dormant laptop. As the web of emotions and facts inherent in research inquiry is bifurcated in the name of methodological neutrality, the meaning the data tends to dry up. In an age of informational obesity and audio-visual dominance, well-ordered and parsimonious peer-reviewed scholarship is relevant, as it tames unreasonable appetence for scholarly completeness. Yet ‘good’ research outputs are just the visible tip of the iceberg of our oceans of data, since disciplinary journal publications are merciless regarding what does not fit in. Those untamed data wastelands are actual gems, dreadfully rich political places from where scientific fictions of the social incubate. They become relevant in the light of the scholarship they inform, and therefore deserve an existence of their own.

Growing on the roadsides of traditional publication formats, the content of this platform uses the digital to showcase ethnographic, archival and geek-informed methodological insights from ongoing research on the politics of educated youth in South Asia. It claims that rigor and fun can interest, and that such epistemic pleasure in engaging with research objects can be informative in a whole range of ways. It displays blog entries, exhibition material, activists’ pamphlets, history-savvy interviews, populist speeches, R/Python scripts, visual artworks, course outlines along with a more standard research portfolio. The website can be understood as a curatorial enterprise; the material should speak first, recasting the researcher’s agency in the organisation of the tableau. Yet, this initiative is not purely altruistic in scope, as the need for academic distinctiveness drives the platform into two, admittedly self-driven directions. First, it centralises here a set of themes I currently work on, effectively stitching them together in a bouquet of topoi. Second, this space is bolstered by a sense of anticipation and intellectual eagerness (intermittently tinted with impatience), as the website includes publication preprints as well as preliminary reflections, work in progress and current writing.

As of now, the website’s overriding interest concerns the way practices of youthfulness encroach on political representation. Focusing on contemporary India and South Asia more broadly, the content engages with student politics, educated youth mobilisation, activist networks and political performances such as speeches and biographical self-fashioning. It contributes to the charting out of campus spaces as generational communities, where secondary socialisations into politics are harboured. They enact differential experiments of political modernity, shelter hubs of fast-moving activist networks, nurture springboards for political professionalisation, and shape educational territories for both ideational cross-fertilization and the reproduction of norms. Various writings, visuals and archives are tilted towards my ethnography of Jawaharlal Nehru University student politics in New Delhi, which informs the content of a book in preparation. The content on display often steps into the joys and hurdles of mixed methods heuristics, not as a mindless khichdi – mixed porridge – of approaches, but as a qualitative-quantitative dialogue within a single interpretive research framework. Here, political ethnography is complemented by text analysis and archival explorations in order to unveil in an original way a variety of representative mechanisms within democratic life, including populist mimesis among Indian leaders, declassing practices within left activism, student activists’ depression as a political stand, or biographical configuration of youth entering electoral arenas.

 

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