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Media Anthropology and Digital Studies

We are told we are in the midst of a digital revolution. We were told, with equal conviction, about the print revolution, the information revolution, and several more transformative media regimes. The rapidity of the digital age, however, devours definitions second by second. From the digital revolution, the sense-making labels have shifted to big data, the Internet of Things and smart worlds run by intelligent automation and analytics. Ramifications for political and social relations are here to see, with or without the new overarching labels. ONLINERPOL project will bring to close focus some of these ramifications and the cultural worlds that surround them, by turning the focus on India and its diaspora in Europe.


India is one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world. The country has over 350 million Internet users, surpassing the US in user volume and second only to China. Among these Internet users, social media is becoming increasingly popular. As of April 2017, there are roughly 200 million Facebook users, the majority of whom are mobile Facebook users. Around 25 million active Twitter users are influencing public debates each day. YouTube, Linkedin, Instagram, and Whatsapp are making fast inroads. India, in other words, is in the midst of a wave of “new media.”


The key objective of ONLINERPOL is to explore this permeating new media milieu in India, by examining the relationship between the expanding Internet media and the political cultures of national belonging mediated by secular-religious-liberal fissures. As opposed to understanding new media as discrete channels of communication or an abstract technological context, the project uses the conceptual frame of “interfaces.” This frame foregrounds the profound mediation of Internet media in bringing distinct actors at various levels of authority with differing ideologies and motivations into close confrontation: the nation state, markets, the diaspora, homeland publics, and divergent religious communities.

Podcast Online Gods

The project has a monthly podcast "Online Gods" available on the project website, Spotify, and i-tunes. Online Gods is part theoretical exploration into some of the key concepts in the anthropology of media, and part research into how increased online interaction is changing the public sphere. Taking India and the India diaspora as its focal point, the podcast continues in the great anthropological tradition of bringing the global and the specific into conversation with one another as it analyses what online discussions do to political participation, displays of faith and feelings of national belonging. We are also intrigued as to whether a podcast can produce ethnographic theory. Online Gods is an official podcast collaborator of the American Anthropological Association. This podcast is hosted by Dr Ian M. Cook and Project PI Prof Dr Sahana Udupa.

Center for Digital Dignity

ONLINERPOL has created the Center for Digital Dignity to value dignity as a core aspect of online cultures of participation. The center is a virtual network of scholars and activists who also plan and meet at offline events as a collective effort to foster enabling spaces of political expression. It is an effort to rescue digital cultures of contact from descending into regressive tropes invoking gender, race, caste and religion, and even nation.



ONLINERPOL has received funding from the European Research Council Starting Grant (Agreement Number 714285). The project is hosted at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, in cooperation with the Department of Communication and Media Research at LMU Munich.

Team Members

  • Principal Investigator: Sahana Udupa
  • Postdoctoral Fellow: Jayana Jain
  • Humboldt Fellow (independent project): Vita Peacock
  • Visiting Fellow (independent project): Zeynep Sariaslan
  • Interactive film editor and designer: Florian Geierstanger
  • Student assistant: Miriam Homer
  • Student assistant: Leah Nann
  • Student assistant: Pranav Raghupathy



Responsible for content: Sahana Udupa