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School of Business and Management

Borderlines research seminar: Building caste-sensitive digital culture

When: Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Where: Online, Zoom

Borderlines research seminar

Host: Prof Yasmin Ibrahim

Guest speaker: Dr Murali Shanmugavelan, SOAS

Zoom link: 


Media, communication and technology studies, in recent decades, have responded to a much-needed set of critiques about the elision of race, gender and sexuality analyses in its research, theoretical and policy remit. Unfortunately, however, the same has not been accurate about caste, although caste affects a fifth of the world's population.

This elision deserves immediate attention for several reasons. First, caste is constituted by everyday communication that produces hierarchy-based social relationships and participation – both offline and online – in caste-affected societies. Secondly, communication critique of 'modern' caste narratives is urgent as caste practices are increasingly culturalised and normalised through the caste-positive articulation in (digital) media spaces. Further, caste continues to re-manifest in everyday digital cultures in various forms – across the world – such as caste-hate speech, discriminatory practices in platform economies and casteism in public data initiatives that require critical engagement with the existing western scholarship and policy initiatives. 

This lecture will make a case for developing a caste-sensitive method to identify a) embedded caste-hate speech in search engine results and b) caste(ist)-conversations, and c) organisational biases with regards to social media platforms. Finally, pointing out the deafening silence of caste in the technology and international development sector, this lecture will offer specific policy recommendations for building a caste-sensitive internet.


Guest speaker bio

Murali Shanmugavelan is a Faculty Fellow, Race and Technology at Data and Society. His academic research is concerned with the disavowal of caste in media and communication studies and digital cultures. Murali is currently working on how digital cultures benefit from and perpetuate caste related hierarchies. He is also working on re-manifesting caste and social hierarchies in digital cultures such as caste-hate speech, open data and platform economies. At Data and Society, Murali’s research on everyday casteism on the Internet aims to develop actionable policy recommendations and build pedagogic content about critical caste and technology studies. In addition, Murali has written numerous research and policy reports briefs on ICT policies, internet governance and caste-related digital cultures.

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