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Reading Indian newspapers: metaculture and practice

July 19, 2008

blogging on peer-reviewed research white.pngPeterson, MA (forthcoming) ‘But it is my habit to read the Times’: metaculture and practice in the reading of Indian newspapers. In Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds) Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

Practice theorists have told us little about what practitioners themselves make of their own cultural practices, i.e about their metacultural accounts, argues Mark A. Peterson in this chapter. Basing his discussion on anthropological fieldwork in New Delhi (India), Peterson sketches a vernacular theory of the practice of reading newspapers. One important folk distinction is that between ‘taking’ and merely ‘reading’ a newspaper. Thus whilst ‘taking’ a prestigious English-language paper is part of one’s public ‘personalia’ (Gell 1986) as a modern, educated Indian, privately ‘reading’ a low-status paper is justified as merely a ‘habit’ or ‘addiction’ – one of the little ‘heterodoxies of practice’ (Bourdieu) through which local agents deviate from orthodox regimes of value. The chapter concludes with an insightful reflection on Peterson’s own effect on the practices he was studying, e.g. by introducing ‘dispersed practices’ (Schatzki 2001) such as asking informants to comment on their reading practices.

NB to read other chapter summaries, see under “Media and Practice book” category

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