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A tale of three worlds: young people, media and class in India

Banaji, Shakuntala (2012) A tale of three worlds: young people, media and class in India. In: Henseler, Christine, (ed.) Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion. Routledge research in cultural and media studies. Routledge, New York, USA, pp. 33-50. ISBN 9780415699440

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When I first considered the topic of Generation X in India seriously at the editor’s request, I was assailed by doubts about the meaningfulness of a study that worked from the barest stereotype in an attempt to delineate any aspect of social life in a contemporary nation of the global south. India’s presence in a variety of online literatures from those on development or politics to those on trade and the economy is shadowed by clichés—the “fastest growing market” with “a middle class of 50 million,” the “second-largest” economy in the developing world, the “biggest democracy,” “friend” of the US and Europe in the fight against global terror, and so on. Similarly the presence of youth in academic and policy literatures the world over has been tainted by journalistic pronouncements about declining participation levels, civic disengagement, individualism, risk culture, remix culture, hybrid identities, and a postmodern, global cultural sensibility. Academic articles on Indian cultural production and circulation often open with implicitly homogenizing assertions: “The times they are a-changing! For India, these are historic times. Her long-established and often fiercely guarded traditions are undergoing rapid and sweeping transformations as she flexes her muscles to compete in a global economy” (Chakravorty 112). In my research on both media cultures in India and youth cultures across South Asia and the UK over the past decade these clichés have proved more a burden than a guide. They have clearly worked in the interests of some and against the interests of others. So, whose interests have they served? Numerous academic papers, projects, and studies have been funded and spawned by the notion of a risk society and youth civic disengagement and voting decline. Talk of generational breaks and intergenerational rifts, McDonaldized youth culture as well as of patterns of youth consumption can clearly serve the interest of marketers who play on notions of “cool” and “hip” regardless of the context. Counter-arguments—suggesting continuities between generations and heterogeneity within generations, cross-cut as they are by class, ethnicity, ability, religion, age, nationality, gender, and sexuality—are briefly heard and then strenuously ignored. At times it even seems that both academics and marketers are colluding to create the absurdly impossible phenomenon of which they speak: distinct generations with distinct characteristics, the world over. And this, unfortunately, means that real distinctions drawn in India by people campaigning on or researching issues of labor, class, gender, or religious discrimination between the everyday experiences of the powerful few and the exploited many, are being ignored in favor of clichés. With regard to India, for instance, it is not uncommon to hear that “everyone is now connected” so “let’s move it online.” What these businesses mean is that “everyone who matters in terms of service capital” is now connected: the upper middle classes, to be precise."

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2014 15:58
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2021 23:04

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