Anunaya Rajhans | Meme Culture and the crisis of meaning in Indian public discourse | University of Amsterdam | Promotor(es); supervisor(s): Prof. dr. Thomas Poell and Dr. Marc Tuters | January 2022 to December 2025 | a.rajhans[at]uva.nl
The project proposes to create a first-of-its-kind account of meme culture in India. The study aims to survey the everyday internet practices of individuals and online communities, to try to understand their growing socio-political influence and cultural capital. By looking at memes as mirrorsof socio-cultural formations, the idea is to develop a thorough understanding of individual motivations, desires and the shared creative energies that form these communities within the given context. This frame of reference of memes as mirrors will form the theoretical foundation of the project. It will be employed to develop a richer, more granular understanding of the online cultural divide and memetic war for ideological supremacy in contemporary India. Moreover, the project will explore the consequences for individuals’ and communities’ ability to make meaning amidst an overall sense of ironic uncertaintyleading to tribalistic fragmentations within the platform society. Meme cultures are singularly effective in fomenting narratives and precipitating unique epistemological formations beyond the idea of truth as a simple straightforward category. This shift in the public discourse will be studied alongside the rise of populism and mainstreaming of far-right tendencies in Indian society at large. Finally, building on this analysis, the project will evaluateexisting counter-narratives, proposing alternative definitions and practices of digital activism and digital literacy in the shifting sands of Indian internet culture at large.