Research and Creative InterestsCultural Studies, Gender and Media, Media Ethics, Digital Media Cultures, Alterity, Marxist Media Studies, Caste and Brahminism, South Asia, Global South,
I study how caste, gender, and class in contemporary India are mediated through English-language news, popular culture, and social media, with a focus on ideological constructions of the upper-caste identity of the Brahmin. In my work, I attempt to map Brahminism as a political ideology that consolidates the interests of a Brahmin-savarna power bloc by examining news texts as a form of knowledge production, and how upper-caste news producers accumulate and mobilize social and cultural capital as a result. Closely examining media ownership and its influence on cultural mediation, I situate how news discourses construct Brahminical regimes of truth; for instance, through the installation of Brahmin-savarna men as public intellectuals or through the discursive reproductions of Brahminical culture as 'Indian culture.' These strategic maneuvers are how Dalit-Bahujan castes remain perpetually under-represented in commercial English-language media, excluded from various kinds of cultural citizenship, and have to struggle to stake out space in fields of knowledge production.
I am also attempting to map what activist pedagogy for media engagement could look like. I am interested in whether media literacy can be inculcated through oppositional readings of media texts in digital or social media spaces, or developing anticaste-feminist hermeneutics for filmmaking and film reviewing. I strongly believe a critical media pedagogy incorporating methods of reporting, writing and editing that are rooted in anticaste feminist thinking is of urgent importance in Indian J-schools and media institutes.
My doctoral research, I hope, will contribute to expanding postcolonial research on the political economy of media cultures in the Global South, with a regional focus on India. If you work on issues of caste in India with a focus on the Brahmin varna or other upper-caste groups and have written something you think I should read, please reach out me!
I also have a professional Master's degree in writing and communication from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and a background in freelance writing. I also worked as a lecturer in media writing and social theory for three years at the School of Communication, Manipal University.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Publication
Rao, P. (2018). The Five-Point Indian: Caste, Masculinity, and English Language in the Paratexts of Chetan Bhagat. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 42 (1), 91–113.
Rao, P. (2018, September 1). Caste and the LoSHA Discourse. Communication, Culture and Critique, 11 (3), 494–497. Commentary.
Parameswaran, R. and Rao, P. (2018, March 1). Imagining, Imaging, and Implementing the New India. Journalism & Communication Monographs 20, no. 1, 74–79. Commentary.
Rao, P. (2017, November 19). Cultural Citizenship in India: Politics, Power, and Media by König, L (author). South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 40 (4), 927-928. Book Review.
Rao, P. (May 2018). The Brahmin as "Culture": Problematizing Caste in India’s Media Event Space. Paper presented at the 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2018, Prague, May 24-28, 2018.
Rao, P. (May 2018). Caste and the LoSHA Discourse. Paper presented at the Blue Sky Workshop on Sexual Harassment in Academia, the 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2018, Prague, May 24-28, 2018.
Rao, P. (October 2017). Mani Ratnam's Oeuvre and Filmic Landscape of Caste in Tamil Cinema. Paper presented at 46th Annual Conference of South Asia 2017, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Rao, P. (May 2017). The Five-Point Indian: Caste, Masculinity and English language in the Paratexts of Chetan Bhagat. Paper presented at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2017, San Diego, California, USA.
Rao, P. (October 2016). Between the City & the Village: The People’s Archive of Rural India and Iconography of the Feminization of Poverty. Presented at Global Fusion 2016, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Rao, P. (July 2014). The Great Indian Mall: A Symbol of Violence in a Culture of Consumerism. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of IAMCR 2014 (International Association for Media and Communication Research), Hyderabad, Telangana, India.
(Discussant). Contextualizing Race with Caste in India: History and Contemporaneity. Panel on 'Anti-Blackness and Racism in South Asia.' Indiana University, Bloomington. 11 April 2016.
(The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington)
- Screening Race and Ethnicity - Spring 2018
- Introduction to Production & Design (Associate Instructor) - Fall 2016
- Media 101 (Associate Instructor) - Fall 2018, Spring 2016, Fall 2015
(School of Communication, Manipal University)
- Media and Society - Spring 2014, Spring 2013
- Media Writing - Spring 2013
- Magazine Journalism - Fall 2013, Fall 2012
- Introduction to New Media - Fall 2012, Fall 2013
- Conference Travel Grant - Ogan Fund, The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington, April 2018.
- Graduate Conference Travel Grant, Dhar India Studies Program, Indiana University, Bloomington, February 2018.
- Conference Travel Grant - Annette and Lars Willnat Fund, The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington, October 2017.
- Frances G. Wilhoit Research Paper Award, Indiana University, Bloomington, April 2017.
- Brantlinger-Naremore Prize for Best Graduate Essay in Cultural Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, April 2017.
- Open Peer Reviewer, ADA: Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, Issue #14, July 2018.
- Peer Reviewer, 69th Conference of the International Communication Association 2018, November 2017.
- Records Chair, Media School Graduate Association, 2016-2017.
- Introducer for IU Cinema, Kabali (February 2017), Monsoon Wedding (April 2018).