Arvind Rajagopal (1984)

Associate Professor of Media Ecology, New York University

I came to the U.S. to do a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1981, and eventually ended up at Berkeley in 1984. My first formative experience at Berkeley, like for so many, was the first year methods course with Michael Burawoy, and TA-ing for him. Berkeley was my first experience of a relatively cosmopolitan environment in the U.S. and in addition to grad school, I was also tasting the pleasures of civilized friendship. Todd Gitlin and Bob Bellah were my advisers, and they were very tolerant with me. This was part of the freewheeling, pluralistic spirit of Berkeley sociology, which I valued. But I think that the theoretical understanding of western modernity that I absorbed was historically limited, and this was clearest when studying non-western societies.

My dissertation was a reception study of a Hindu epic serialized on Indian television in the late 'eighties. The movement that grew in the serial's wake became the largest in post-independence history in India. In effect, I was able to study a historical conjuncture in formation; the movement went onto reshape Indian politics and culture. My book on this, Politics After Television (Cambridge, 2001) has won a couple of prizes. Since then, I've studied questions of religion and secularism, the cultural politics of emerging markets, and specifically, of late, urban politics in Bombay. I now teach at New York University in media studies. I enjoy working here. And I've found that New York City is an easy place to get used to.

Dissertation Title: 
Uses of the Past: The Televisual Broadcast of an Ancient Epic and its Reception in Indian Society
Dissertation Book Title: 
Politics after Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India