so far in this blog, references to my work (as in what i do for a living) have been extremely scant, and if present, then tangential.
Today I am posting a large chunk of 'work' work. I work at an organisation called Sarai
(it takes its name from the generic for a wayfarer's inn, of sorts, a safe enclosure where travellers met/meet), on a project called PPHP - People's and Practises in the History of The Present.
Here is the introduction to a CD we produced out of our work recently. (like, two days ago.) A cd we're all very proud of. (I wrote whatever isn't in italics.
The idea of this intro is to whet your appetite for the CD, and for the work we do. The CD is under a creative commons license
. For copies, contact me.
The new globalisation has transformed media networks in Delhi. At the
level of the everyday, the old prohibition and regulation on the social
life of commodities have proved ineffective, urban residents are now
assaulted with a deluge of cultural products, cassettes, CD's, MP3s,
VCD's, cable television, grey markets computers, cheap chinese audio and
video players, thousands of cheap print flyers, and signage everywhere.
What is remarkable here is the preponderance of these products comes
from the grey or informal sector, outside the effective regulation of
the state or large capital. India today has the world's second largest
music market, a large film industry with global dreams, a majority grey
computer market, hundreds of tiny thousands of phone and word processing
shops and cybercafes. And as if from the ruins of urban planning new
media bazaars, which supply these networks have emerged, existing in the
cusp of legality and illegality. Everyday a guerilla war is raging,
between new intellectual property raiders, the police and unceasing
neighbourhood demand for grey ware.
- Ravi Sundaram
Journeys in the History of the Present (and absent...)
As researchers of the PPHP program, we constantly traverse zones of
legality and illegality, passing through markets, cinemas, corporate
offices, music companies, film distribution offices, detective agencies,
law courts, police stations, government archives and factories. We meet
shopkeepers, software pirates, porn merchants, architects, singers,
accountants, laborers, lawyers, officials and policemen – all of whom
constitute the fraught fabric of the Media City, the intertwining networks
of curtailment and circulation.
In enforcement, there is an increasing link between property and
propriety. The Economic Offences Wing conducts raids for Obscene Material,
and of course, Copyright Violations, and these are Locally made video
satires, a new variation on a long existing tradition, have to go
underground to prevent the ‘spread of communalism’. A plethora of laws are
being used, or sought to be used, to discipline pirate networks and their
free, untrammeled, circulation. Copyright, obscenity, communalism, the
At the same time, laws and regulations are being changed to privilege
large capital; and a sanitized, globalised imagination of the city. The
boom in malls has been fuelled by the repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling
Act. Multiplexes act as drivers for Malls, and have become possible
because of changes in MCD regulations on land use.
Forms of Sharing Research
In the PPHP program, as we bear witness to the rapidly transforming city,
we try to knit our diverse experiences into a picture of larger processes
and transformations by posting field-notes (largely experiential) on a
common list and archive(email@example.com), a space for sharing information,
for collaborative research, for creative interventions. Newspaper
clippings and other print and audio visual material are also collected and
digitized. There is a commitment to making the research public, and in
this endeavour, we engage with a variety of forms of presenting research -
staccato fieldnotes, news clippings, more ‘poetic’, evocative texts,
archival resources, other ‘intermediate’ forms of writing not yet polished
into an essay or scholarly article; these modes of writing are put out
into the public domain via new forms – the broadsheet, the spiral bound
volume, the hyperlinked CD.
The form of this CD is not different from the research it presents. The
hyperlinks which enable you to pick and follow threads reflect how the
researchers move through diverse spaces. Following leads, and threading
through the quotidian flux and constant change that characterise the Media
City. A city that cannot be navigated through the cartographic grid, or
the practices of mapping. Think rather of the labyrinth of legend.
Unmapped, unmappable. Think of Theseus
, who navigates through the
labyrinth with a ball of thread, slowly unravelling. We feel it is an apt
picture to describe our re-search. The threads we draw/follow through the
city may not 'map' the city in any traditional sense, but following these
diverse threads will give you the warp and weft, a feel of the fabric of
Threads and networks. There are workshops and presentations where we
engage with people in the other projects at Sarai, and with the larger
community of researchers. Notable are the networks built with the
Alternative Law Forum, and the Centre for Emerging Urbanism, in
Bangalore. Every six months, the PPHP programme has an internal review, in
which the researchers evaluate the directions that their research is
taking them in, and the directions that they should take in the future. We
like to think of ourselves as being at the core of a dynamic,evolving,
networked research community.
We hope that the articles and postings presented in this CD, culled from
the PPHP archives and from our various publications, give you a sense not
just of the changing fabric of the media city, but of the diverse ways we
seek to engage with these changes; of new modes of bearing witness.