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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Jane E. Fountain
Communication | Public Policy
This dissertation studies the promise of inclusion in the global information society for marginalized groups in India, a nation that represents a modular case for technology and modernization initiatives in the global South. There has been significant research on the problematic notion of the "digital divide," based on the premise that access to technology will ensure economic and cultural transformations. Combining approaches from the political economy of communication and from cultural studies, my research is located in the growing critical and ethnographic scholarship on technology and modernity in the global South. I examine the institutional and cultural politics of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD) initiatives in rapidly globalizing Delhi through a multi-method study that includes archival research and an extended period of fieldwork at the sites of interconnected global and local institutions, markets and communities.
Forms of institutions and governance, starting from the colonial period, demonstrate continuities to the evolution of digital inclusion initiatives in the 21st century. Through archival and ethnographic research, I trace the beginnings of public-private partnerships in education and the establishment of the Industrial Training Institutes to 19th century colonial India, when the British Empire sought to strengthen its rule. My ethnographic research also studies the modern, postcolonial state as it changes from the Nehruvian socialist model to a neoliberal one and increasingly becomes a deliverer of social services, enabled by ICT programs. Corporations emerge as important welfare actors through hybrid public-private partnerships. I argue that such new institutional forms renegotiate, reify and occasionally reproduce structural inequalities, especially for low-income and marginalized communities.
My project connects institutional politics to the politics of culture. I study the habitus of "new middle-class," corporate professionals in India who comprise the initiators of ICTD projects. In addition, my ethnographic research follows "urban poor Muslim women" and "slum youth" from the doorsteps of the ICT center into their everyday lives to understand policy shifts from subaltern perspectives. My study unpacks concepts of the "digital divide" and "access" in the context of complex histories of gender, class, caste, religion and the politics of urban space in global Delhi.
Sarkar, Sreela, "Technology and Modernity at the Boundaries of Global Delhi" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations 1896 - February 2014. 503.