The Crisis of the Database

My friend Manan Ahmed at the University of Chicago is co-organising a panel on digital archiving in South Asia at the Annual Conference on South Asia hosted at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I haven’t been to the conference in three years, and Manan was kind enough to ask me to present something about my work with digital archiving and mapping, though I only just gave him my abstract for my presentation on The Crisis of the Database: Independent Research and Pedagogy in India Before and After the Digital Revolution.

This presentation will examine the recent history of networked research and pedagogic practice by voluntary initiatives, academic organisations and freelance researchers in India, and consider their consequences for organised scholarship in the humanities and social sciences of South Asia.

Over the past five years, the research landscape in India presents a strange paradox. At the moment when new technologies have enabled the emergence of vibrant new spaces such as mailing lists, blogs and wikis, and a remarkable vitality is shown by the formation of new collectives of researchers, media practitioners, and activists, higher education and university research has been sufffered institutional crisis and precipitous decline in India. While previously isolated communities of independent researchers have become increasingly connected, and new technologies promise to lower the barriers to online pedagogy and collaborative research, the response of traditional academic institutions to these changes have been primarily defensive.

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