The Affects of Development: Value in India’s Global-Digital Age
In my current book project,, I argue that what it means to “develop” in India must be re-theorized given emergent digitally-mediated circulations and transnational diasporic networks that influence how social change is conceived. Funded by a Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship and a Zwicker Award, I conducted fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with personnel from Adhyaapaka Foundation, a Bangalore-based education NGO, as they interacted with teachers, students, and parents in villages outside the city. My work revitalizes the anthropology of value by fleshing out its affective dimensions (Fassin, 2012). Recently, anthropologists have been concerned with the global regimes of value that circulate and change what various populations believe “they ought to want” (Graeber, 2013). These types of changes do not work primarily within the realm of the intellectual, but instead through the prism of affect, directly influencing (or affecting) the potential for particular types of action in the future (Povinelli, 2011). In my fieldwork, affects were produced within a regime of development-based value, manifesting as dreams, aspirations, desires, and anxieties that together I term the affects of development. For example, in the Adhyaapaka organization praxis, the method of intervention was to “motivate” rather than provide skills, explicitly attempting to change how headmasters, teachers, and students felt about themselves and their capabilities and, in so doing, promoting a set of techno-managerial values in schools, including those of accountability and sustainability. The affective intensity of these encounters emplaced these values in students as “what they ought to want”, destabilizing competing values, and pushing them along a path dictated by the precepts of development.
For a list of projects go to: Research Projects
Towards a Critical Visual Pedagogy
I recently conducted a lecture on media and education with a group of Karnataka state government schoolteachers. I began my presentation with a screen shot taken from a recent Tehelka expose on the state of education in India (http://www.tehelka.com/independence-day-special-2013/). The page depicts a smiling student, clad in a shoddy and unbuttoned government school uniform, standing in front of a chalkboard with the alphabets written in both English and Hindi, underneath the words “Can’t Read. Can’t Write. Can’t Count.”
When I showed this image to the teachers they were livid. Five got up at once to lecture me on how misinformed my assessment of government schools/rural children was and how wrong the image itself was. In a misunderstanding partly brought on by a communication gap and partly brought on by their emotional response to the images themselves, they started chastising me for creating the image, thinking that I was showing them something of my own making. After fifteen minutes of shouting, I went to the board and wrote, “DANGEROUS”, with an arrow pointing towards the image.
For the entire article go to: Writing and Lectures
Curiosity: A Transdisciplinary Approach
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Social Policy and Practice in "Curiosity: A Transdisciplinary Approach", co-sponsored by the Center for Curiosity (CfC), an organization dedicated to transdisciplinary research into curiosity. Over the past three years we have begun the work of understanding what the concept means and how we might facilitate curiosity in educational settings of all sorts.
We start with a simple premise: when children are curious about the world, they naturally seek new knowledge, expanding their minds in ways that impact their life academically and socially. At CfC, we believe in learning strategies that “trigger” the natural curiosity present in all of us. However, as yet little has been done to promote curiosity as a strategy or in creating tools that can help us develop our curiosity in a structured, systematic way.
To see a list of other Research Projects click here.
I am a co-founder and former director of camra, a UPenn-based organization dedicated to multimodal forms of research representation. Over the past three years we have held media festivals, written articles, invited speakers, conducted research, and taught courses that challenge undergraduate students, graduate students, and university scholars to produce visual research as rigorous as its written counterpart. We hold the annual Screening Scholarship Media Festival with the primary goal to create a space to legitimize multimodal research and produce a model for teaching about and evaluating audiovisual media for faculty across the university.
For more on my research projects click here.
To go to the camra website click here.
Bad Friday Goes to Africa
"The Bad Friday South African tour arranged in conjunction with Cape Town film maker Kurt Orderson of Azania Rising Productions is a series of screenings and workshops in various centres across the country.
The producers of the film, with film and anthropology students from The University of Pennsylvania, who some hail from different parts of the world including India and Pakistan, a delegation from Jamaica including Rastafarian elder Ras Simba who is one of those who's stories are featured in the film, are all present at each screening event.
This is not merely an exercise in depicting Rastafarian history but is an ideal opportunity for people from all walks of life to dissect the impact of violence on society as a whole." - Ryan Swano, Brunio.com