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Embedded/embedding media practices and cultural production

June 28, 2008

blogging on peer-reviewed research white.pngRao, U. (forthcoming) Embedded/embedding media practices and cultural production. In Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds) Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

This chapter draws from Ursula Rao‘s recent anthropological research in North India to argue for a performative approach to the study of grassroots leadership and media practices. Through the case study of the controversy surrounding the making of a Hindi film in the holy city of Banaras, the chapter reveals how ambitious local men turned the populist, ‘open-door policy’ of the vernacular press into platforms from which to launch their political careers by capitalising on such dramas. Distancing herself from what she regards as the far too orderly media field/practice models of Bourdieu (1998) and Couldry (this volume), Rao argues that in the fast moving ‘cultural flux’ of India’s increasingly commercialised press, we need to attend more closely to the contingent, unpredictable border-crossing ‘tactics’ (de Certeau 1984) of grassroots practitioners (cf. Postill forthcoming). She also suggests that although folk versions of the Habermasian notion of public sphere certainly inform widely held perceptions of the Indian press and its democratising mission, the actual news making practices of local journalists and others with a stake in journalism (particularly but not only in the vernacular press) differ quite markedly from this ideal. In the messiness of actual social life, the ‘performative politics’ of making visible a political leader’s heroism, benevolence and effective networking are inseparable from the practices related to news making.

(NB to read other chapter summaries, see under “Media and Practice book” category)


Bourdieu, P. 1998 On Television and Journalism. London: Pluto (French orig. 1996)

de Certeau, M. 1984 The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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