ConvenorSalma Siddique - Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
The Hindi film song ‘Yeh Public Hai!’ (Roti, 1974) asserts that the ‘public’ knows and discerns everything, from carefully-managed star personas to populist political promises. But who can claim to know the elusive, shape-shifting public? The public goes by many names in contemporary media research – users, followers, fans, communities, participants, listeners, audiences, spectators and consumers. This panel seeks to feature early and advanced media scholars to reflect on the epistemological status of the ‘public’ as it informs their scholarship around media practices and screen cultures. This call is part of a recent sideways approach to studying audiences as ‘an abstraction that is institutionally and discursively produced by government, advertisers and media industries’ (Hughes, 2021). In contrast, approaches focussed on enthusiastic audiences, claim that ‘subaltern sovereignty’ bestowed by fandom can be read in specific strategies of populist mobilization where the ‘subject of populism is a variant of the fan’ (Prasad, 2009; Srinivas, 2021). Moving between these circuitous and direct methods, this panel will bring together archival, ethnographic, digital and formal approaches to media practices and assemblages, to offer discerning insights on audiences.