Associate Professor, Media Ecology
"I was interested in how the media and the Hindu nationalist movement affected each other, and in how we could use this situation as a case study to understand cultural change worldwide."
'Technological change is fast, but cultural change is slow,' says Arvind Rajagopal, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Rajagopal is a highly regarded scholar of transnational cultural studies and the political economy of culture and media. He has been a member of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, as well as the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Rajagopal was awarded NYU Steinhardt's Griffiths Research Award for his critically acclaimed book, Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India.
Politics After Television examines a case in which an epic television drama series spurred a major Hindu nationalist movement, which irrevocably altered the country's political climate.
'Media such as television and films can often have the effect of bringing popular forces to the surface or politicizing certain groups,' Rajagopal says. 'I was interested in how the media and the Hindu nationalist movement affected each other, and in how we could use this situation as a case study to understand cultural change worldwide.
Rajagopal teaches popular undergraduate courses and advises masters and doctoral students in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. In his recent undergraduate course on class in India, he organized a debate around the issue of a series of Hindu/Muslim riots that led to the destruction of a mosque.
'I asked students to take the perspectives of different sides and to ask themselves how ordinary people could conduct such violent acts. It was fascinating to see how their views became more nuanced through this process of seeking to understand the motivations of others and the forces that drive those motivations.'
As the terrorist attacks on the United States have made violence and the clash of cultures painfully relevant to Americans, the discussions led by Rajagopal challenge students to better understand the complex roots of global conflict - which in turn may lead them to ponder possible solutions.