My interest in research is an outcome of frustrations and inspirations from my 16 years of experience in the field of international development. My work was concerned with the use of media and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) including the internet and mobile phones to improve people’s lives. This involved a combination of research, policy and development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The impact of these media and communication for development projects, were typically considered within the conceptual framework of functionalist sociology of media, and measured on the basis of short term indicators. My research topic shifts the mode of analysis from the effects of media to understanding everyday communicative practices of people living in margins.
My research looks at the community as a whole (communicative ecology), where communicative practices are considered in relation to day-to-day activities of which media is one element. The field site (a discriminated Dalit colony) is an ostracised public space and the informants (Arunthathiyars) are the most oppressed group (called Dalit among Dalits) in Tamil Nadu. Traditional occupations of Arunthathiyars are tanning, manual scavenging and dealing with dead animals. I look at how these spatial and cultural discriminations influence and shape everyday articulations by Arunthathiyar whose world appears to be media-saturated with mobile phones, colour televisions and access to newspapers which, according to western media studies, are supposed to be agents of democracy and social change. My field work employs an anthropological tool, lived-in ethnography, to understand caste, discrimination and communicative practices.
- Shanmugavelan, Murali (2013): Looking beyond neo-liberal communication approaches for development. Media Development. WACC: England : 04 /2013.
- The internet governance: roles of states & corporation. Convenor and presenter of Special session at the Annual conference of the International Association for Media and Communications Research (IAMCR), Durban 15-19, July 2012.
Jointly hosted by Centre for Film and Media Studies, SOAS and Association for Progressive Communications, South Africa.
- Effects of Communication Technologies on Dalit communities. Annual conference of the British Association of South Asian Studies Annual Conference (BASAS) 2012
In the panel The Developmental Turn in Dalit Activism: Civil Society Engagement with Contemporary Caste Discrimination, Convened by David Mosse and Luisa Steur, London, 12-14, April 2012.
- Critiquing development communication approaches by NGOs through an ethnography of everyday communication practices of a Dalit community.
In the plenary session on New Media, Old Media and Social Media at the International Communication Association Preconference on Changing South Asian Communications Scholarship, London 16 – 17 June 2013.
- Member, British Association of South Asian Studies
- Centre for Media Studies
- Department of Anthropology and Sociology