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Covering the New India

February 29, 2012

Last fall, the New York Times launched its “first-ever country-specific site for news, information, culture and conversation.” The site is called India Ink, dedicated to providing “more in-depth, on-the-ground coverage of the world’s biggest democracy.”

India’s emergence as world superpower is a familiar media topic today, but Radhika Parameswaran is looking beyond the headlines to investigate India’s “nation-branding.” Using television, print, and online news stories and visual images, Parameswaran, a professor in the IU School of Journalism in Bloomington, is analyzing media representations of India’s transition from a forgotten postcolonial nation to rising superpower.

“How are the media translating New India’s experiences with economic transition into the vernacular of the popular? How is India’s potential as an emerging market and a serious player in the global economy being conjured in journalism’s artistic illustrations, pictures, and stories?” asks Parameswaran, who is a native of Hyderabad.

To gain deeper historical perspective on changes in representations of India in western media, Parameswaran will collaborate with IU’s Center for the Study of History and Memory, co-directed by John Bodnar and Daniel James, as well as John Lucaites, professor of communications and culture, and Eric Sandweiss, Carmony Chair and associate professor in the Department of History. In particular, Parameswaran wants to explore how India’s colonial history is remembered, or not. “What do media texts and images make visible, and at the same time erase, in order to construct India as a modernizing nation capable of becoming a player in global affairs?” she asks.

Her work with the Center for the Study of History and Memory is supported in part by a Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Funding award from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. The award is designed to foster collaborations and jump-start projects that involve IU Bloomington faculty and IU centers, institutes and museums.

Paramsweran’s current project is part of her long-standing work on globalization and media in the context of in India. Recently, for example, she’s studied the aggressive promotion of light-skinned beauty in the media, advertising, and cosmetics culture of India, analyzing “beauty as part of other aspirations and ambitions that India has for itself,” she says.

“What do we want to be as a nation? To me, beauty if a part of the same modernizing spirit that desires asphalt roads.”

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