ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Preserving Pious Personas: moral regulation in Pakistani TV dramas’ digital worlds


Montpellier Elliot - University of Pennsylvania, South Asia Studies, Philadelphia, United States


51- The Digital Turn in South Asian Television Studies


 This papers traces how creators of Pakistani entertainment television cultivate digital public personas centred on Islamic piety. Drawing from ethnographic data collected in Karachi, Pakistan in 2018 and 2021 and ongoing digital ethnography, I focus on social media content produced in conjunction with Pakistani’s core media industry – the serialised television drama – by individuals embedded within this creative economy. With an interest in Instagram, TikTok, and online news sites, I examine how individuals’ articulation of religiosity is framed as part of their creative labour. Media personnel embody various forms of piety – through discourse, dress, circulation of religious visual culture – as part of digitalised efforts to shape impressions of reputation, respectability, celebrity, and success.

In contrast to focus on insurgent uses of digital media in Islamic contexts and media anthropological interest in self-professed Islamic media, my work investigates the everyday religious aspects of media industries in the context of a South Asian Muslim society. Adopting a critical media industry studies approach, my work documents how the dynamic media capital of Karachi has responded to and deployed new affordances of digital televisual modes of distribution and audience engagement while remaining connected to and embedded in local contexts, where relating to and being part of a religious public is paramount.