Ph.D. Candidate/Associate Instructor
Research and Creative Interests
- South Asia
- Cultural Studies
- Marxist Media Studies
- Caste and Brahminism
- Gender and Media
- Digital Media Cultures
- Sociology of Media
My research interests explore the intersections of journalism, democracy, and power in the Indian subcontinent. My current research is situated in the sociology of news production, and how caste and its organization of capital and labor mediate English-language news, popular culture, and social media in India.
In my dissertation, I examine the impact of the caste system in the ownership and narratives of English-language news media in India. I probe caste’s centrality in structuring the political economy of news networks, and how it informs news organizations’ participation in gender and class formations. These entanglements of power consolidate the interests of a Brahmin & upper-caste power bloc, who dominate the public imagination in India’s mediascape due to their mobilization of capital.
I also closely examine news texts to understand how these discourses construct Brahminical regimes of truth; for instance, through the installation of upper-caste men as public intellectuals or through the discursive reproductions of upper-caste cultures as “Indian culture.” These strategic manoeuvres are how Bahujan or lower-caste jātis remain perpetually under-represented in commercial English-language media, and have to stake out their own spaces in fields of knowledge production. Digital and new media platforms are a recent space where such anticaste articulations have emerged for Bahujan Ambedkarite audiences, confronting gaps and misperceptions in mainstream news causing occasional interventions in the over-representation of Brahminical subjectivity.
In my teaching, I test out how media literacy can be taught through carefully cultivated oppositional readings of media texts, or in developing feminist-anticaste hermeneutics for filmmaking and film reviewing. Having been a journalism scholar and educator for close to a decade now, I strongly believe a critical media pedagogy for methods of reporting, writing and editing that are rooted in anti-racist anti-caste feminist thinking is of urgent importance in J-schools and media institutes.
I 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 prior to my doctoral studies.
Rao, P. (2019). Soch Aur Shauch: Reading Brahminism and patriarchy in ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’. Studies in South Asian Film & Media 9 (2), 79–96. https://doi.org/10.1386/safm.9.2.79_1.
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.
Parameswaran, R. and Rao, P. (Forthcoming). “Rural India’s Virtual/Visual Archive: Mapping a Media Intervention from the Digital South.” In Handbook of Communication and Media in the Global South.
Parameswaran, R. and Rao, P. (2019, July 18). “From Lotus Goddess to Holy Basil: Transnational Racio-scapes in US Presidential Politics.” Global-e, 12(28). https://www.21global.ucsb.edu/global-e/july-2019/lotus-goddess-holy-basil-transnational-racio-scapes-us-presidential-politics.
Rao, P. (2018). Caste and the LoSHA Discourse. Communication, Culture and Critique, 11 (3), 494–497. Commentary.
Parameswaran, R. and Rao, P. (2018). Imagining, Imaging, and Implementing the New India. Journalism & Communication Monographs 20, no. 1, 74–79. Commentary.
Rao, P. (2017). 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.
Selected Conference Presentations
Caste Culture as Caste Power: Lifestyle Media and the Culturalization of Caste in India’s News Ecology. Full refereed research paper. Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) 2019, Toronto, Canada.
Rural India’s Virtual/Visual Archive: Materializing the Forgotten Citizens of the Nation. Full refereed research paper. 69th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2019, Washington D.C., USA.
Viral Toilets, Virtual Humor: Reading Gendered and Transgressive Bodies in Urban India. Panel Presentation. 69th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2019, Washington D.C., USA.
Mapping “Indian culture”: Caste as Pleasurable Consumption in Indian Lifestyle Journalism. Panel Presentation. presented at the 60th Annual Conference of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS) 2019, Seattle, USA.
The Brahmin as “Culture”: Problematizing Caste in India’s Media Event Space. Full refereed research paper. 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2018, Prague, Czech Republic.
Mani Ratnam’s Oeuvre and Filmic Landscape of Caste in Tamil Cinema. Panel presentation. 46th Annual Conference of South Asia 2017, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
The Five-Point Indian: Caste, Masculinity and English language in the Paratexts of Chetan Bhagat. Full refereed research paper. 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) 2017, San Diego, USA.
Between the City & the Village: The People’s Archive of Rural India and Iconography of the Feminization of Poverty. Panel Presentation. Presented at Global Fusion 2016, Philadelphia, USA.
The Great Indian Mall: A Symbol of Violence in a Culture of Consumerism. Panel Presentation. Annual Conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) 2014, 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 (Full Instructor) – 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 (Full Instructor) – Spring 2014, Spring 2013
- Media Writing (Full Instructor) – Spring 2013
- Magazine Journalism (Full Instructor) – Fall 2013, Fall 2012
- Introduction to New Media (Full Instructor) – Fall 2012, Fall 2013
- “Introducing Media and Cultural Studies.” For MSCH-C 101: Media. The Media School. Indiana University Bloomington. 8 July 2019.
- “Navigating the New India: Women’s Turbulent Itineraries in a Globalizing Nation.” Indiana University Lifelong Learning & Mini University. June 2019.
Awards & Fellowships
- Annual Award for Best Article, Journal of Communication Inquiry (Vol. 42), presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference, Toronto, August 2019.
- Graduate and Professional Student Government Travel Award, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2019.
- Media School Graduate Teaching Award, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2018.
- The Ogan Fund – Travel Grant, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2018.
- Dhar India Studies Program Conference Travel Grant, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2018 and 2o16.
- Annett and Lars Willnat Travel Fund, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2017.
- Frances G. Wilhoit Research Paper Award, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2017.
- Brantlinger-Naremore Prize for Best Graduate Essay in Cultural Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2017.
- Cultural Studies Travel Grant, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2017.
- TMA Pai Gold Medal for Best Outgoing Student, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, 2006.
- Peer Reviewer, Journal of Communication Inquiry, February 2019
- Peer Reviewer, Journal of Gender Studies, February-May 2019
- Peer Reviewer, ICA 2019, November 2018
- Peer Reviewer, ADA: Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology, July 2018
- Peer Reviewer, ICA 2018, November 2017
- Search Committee Member. For the position of Director of the Michael I. Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism, The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2019.
- Organizer of Film Series, “Incarnations of Sridevi: Indian Cinema Superstar,” Indiana University, Bloomington, 2019.
- Records Chair, Media School Graduate Association, 2016-2017.
- Introducer for IU Cinema, Kabali (February 2017), Monsoon Wedding (April 2018).