December 2007

CMCs and subaltern gendered selves

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Introduction
Community media is fundamentally about subversion, a democratic project tucked away from the mainstream, a site of symbolic resistance and new meanings, where social actors continually question and re-etch the boundaries of domination. This article is based on research that tried to assess whether a CMCs can become a locale of micro-resistance for women – their own social space right in the heart of an oppressive terrain. Using a combination of in-depth interviews and participant observation, an attempt has been made, to investigate how an ICT centre located in an Islamic community, creates subaltern gendered selvesi.

Community media, gender and resistance
Literature on community media usually exists as a rich repertoire of narratives, accounts of struggles and triumphs from across the world (see works of Alfonso Gumucio Dagron or Peter M Lewis). Theoretical expositions are rare but one that lays down an empirical framework to study resistance, is an unusual body of empirical evidence compiled by John Downing (Radical Media: rebellious communication and social movements, 2001) ranging from Moroccan women street traders to Soviet graffiti. Downing examines the relationship between power, culture and alternative media and befitting the latent anarchism of these acts, he proposed a new term radical mediaii.

The ICT project at Seelampur is, however more akin in nature to the quotidian politics of citizen's media (another definition of community media offered by Clemencia Rodriguez). But what informs this study greatly is the way Downing explores hegemony and resistance by referring to Italian theoretician Antonion Gramsci and anthropologist JC Scott respectively. Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks talks about the deeply entrenched authority of cultural institutions where the status quo is achieved through agencies of information that propagate and naturalise dominant ideology. Much like the silent hegemony of patriarchy; wherein gender becomes an indisputable socio-cultural, biological, even mythical construct. For Gramsci the only hope lay in the revolution of the masses, an uprising that never came, dooming us all to a state of resignation. But the anthropologist Scott dwells more on the massive middle terrain between the two extremes of 'quiescence' and 'revolt'

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