Digital Unsettling book cover

CARGC & C3 Book Talk: Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, NYU

February 22, 2024 12:15pm-1:30pm
  • Annenberg School for Communication, Room 500
  • 3620 Walnut Street

"Digital Unsettling: Decoloniality and Dispossession in the Age of Social Media"

Digital Unsettling book cover
Book cover of Digital Unsettling

Co-authored with Sahana Udupa, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

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About the Book

The revolutionary aspirations that fueled decolonization circulated on paper—as pamphlets, leaflets, handbills, and brochures. Now—as evidenced by movements from the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter—revolutions, protests, and political dissidence are profoundly shaped by information circulating through digital networks.

Digital Unsettling is a critical exploration of digitalization that puts contemporary “decolonizing” movements into conversation with theorizations of digital communication. Sahana Udupa and Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan interrogate the forms, forces, and processes that have reinforced neocolonial relations within contemporary digital environments, at a time when digital networks—and the agendas and actions they proffer—have unsettled entrenched hierarchies in unforeseen ways.

Digital Unsettling examines events—the toppling of statues in the UK, the proliferation of #BLM activism globally, the rise of Hindu nationalists in North America, the trolling of academics, among others—and how they circulated online and across national boundaries. In doing so, Udupa and Dattatreyan demonstrate how the internet has become the key site for an invigorated anticolonial internationalism, but has simultaneously augmented conditions of racial hierarchy within nations, in the international order, and in the liminal spaces that shape human migration and the lives of those that are on the move. Digital Unsettling establishes a critical framework for placing digitalization within the longue durée of coloniality, while also revealing the complex ways in which the internet is entwined with persistent global calls for decolonization.

Photograph of Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan
Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, Ph.D.

About the Authors

Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan is an ethnographer, filmmaker, and visual artist. For almost a decade he has utilized collaborative, multimodal, and speculative approaches to research how digital and new media shape understandings of migration, gender, race, and urban space. His first book, The Globally Familiar: Digital hip hop, masculinity and urban space in Delhi (Duke University Press, 2020), narrates how Delhi’s young working class and migrant men adopt hip hop’s globally circulating aesthetics— accessed through inexpensive smartphones and cheap internet connectivity that radically changed India’s media landscape in the early aughts— to productively re-fashion themselves and their city. His second book, Digital Unsettling: Decoloniality and Dispossession in the Age of Social Media (co-written with Sahana Udupa, NYU Press, 2023), critically explores how corporate owned social media platforms become a site for the rearticulation and disruption of enduring forms of coloniality. Gabriel’s films have screened in international festivals, including the Tasveer International Film Festival, Ethnografilm Paris,The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), and the German International Ethnographic Film Festival. He has exhibited his video and sound installations in various venues, including Khoj Arts (Delhi), the Slought Foundation (Philadelphia), and Bow Arts (London). He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, New York University (NYU).

Photo of Sahana Udupa
 Sahana Udupa, Ph.D.

Sahana Udupa is professor of media anthropology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany. Her books include Making News in Global India (Cambridge University Press); Digital Hate: The Global Conjuncture of Extreme Speech (edited with Iginio Gagliardone and Peter Hervik) and Media as Politics in South Asia (edited with Steve McDowell). She is the recipient of the Joan Shorenstein Fellowship at Harvard University, European Research Council Grant Awards and Francqui Chair (Belgium). Most recently, she delivered a keynote address at the United Nations Peacekeeping International Symposium on Digital Transformation based on the research paper on digital hate she wrote for the UN.


This event is a part of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) and the Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication (Annenberg C3) co-sponsored event series and supported by CAMRA (Collective for Advancing Multimodal Research Arts).

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