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Media anthropology e-seminar, 7-21 Dec: Mark A. Peterson on Urdu news revival

November 19, 2010

** via media anthropology list **

Dear All

The 34th EASA Media Anthropology Network e-seminar will be held via this mailing list from Tuesday 7 Dec to Tuesday 21 Dec 2010.

Mark A. Peterson (Miami University) will present a working paper entitled “Indexicality, iconicity and language ideology in the Urdu news revival” and Ursula Rao (University of New South Wales) will be the discussant. The paper will be up on our site shortly – meanwhile see the abstract below.

As always you are all very welcome to contribute comments and questions after we’ve heard from the discussant on 7 Dec.

Please feel free to forward this announcement to colleagues who are not on this list but may wish to participate. To see PDF transcripts of previous papers and e-seminars, go to

ps more info soon to follow on our forthcoming e-seminars for 2011


In 1993, the prognosis for Urdu newspapers in India was dismal. The readership was aging and dwindling as the new generation learned Hindi in Devanagiri script. Urdu calligraphers (katibs) were not passing their skills on to a new generation, and writers skilled in Urdu were becoming increasingly hard to find. Fifteen years later, India is home to a prosperous and expanding Urdu press. Demographically, little had changed: the mean age of readers was 50 and the katibs had ceased to exist, yet the number of newspapers had tripled, circulations were often higher than they had been in the past, profits were up and the atmosphere at Delhi’s major Urdu newspapers was upbeat. A large part of the explanation lies in the intersection of language ideologies and new writing technologies. On the one hand, new more flexible technologies allowed the retiring khatibs to be replaced by computer typesetting that strongly resembles north Indian calligraphic styles. On the other hand, Urdu indexes crucial politically urgent populations, leading to a renewed interest in it from many sectors. Increasingly classified as a “Muslim” language (even though the majority of Urdu readers in India have been Hindus), written Urdu is seen as a crucial medium for communicating with the Muslim minority in India as well as the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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