Does the Nation Want to Know?

The Politics of Post-truth

National Students’ Seminar conducted by:


Call for Papers

We are no longer accepting submissions.

Selected participants will be informed soon.

Deadline for submitting papers for selected abstracts will be 9 November 2018.

The seminar is only open for students currently enrolled in any M.A., M.Phil, or PhD programme.

The seminar will be held on 30 November – 1 December 2018 at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Panel 1

Seminar Theme

The popular usage of the term ‘Post-truth’ is symptomatic of the kind of political discourse in the world today. Interestingly, the term was first used to denote the simple meaning ‘after the truth is known’, as opposed to the current connotation of a complete irrelevance of ‘truth.’ In its current usage however, truth seems to become about statements that seem true, and not about discovering ‘facts’. ‘Post-truth’, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, relates to ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

‘Post-truth’ has been used to understand the narratives that circulated before and in the aftermath of events of global importance like Trump’s election and Brexit. Another term that has been used by Trump’s team is ‘alternate facts’ which seems to question any objective understanding of ‘facts’. There are many ways in which the discourse of ‘post-truth’ has developed via various agents in society. In the last few decades, media corporations have increasingly sought spectacles and sensationalism as a way of capturing audiences. Further, various aspects of the same ‘event’ are hidden or revealed depending on the affiliations and ownership patterns of media houses. Similarly, historical events are being reimagined by institutions to maintain social hierarchies and affirm a certain re-imagining of the nation and its citizens. In democratic nations, the arena of politics itself has increasingly become a space of (masculine) performance, framing public opinion and giving impetus to aggressive majoritarianism that sometimes manifests in violence against minorities, supported by a media ecosystem of toxic virality. In this overload of created information, what happens to those on the margins? How do marginal citizens seek representation in a context where the very idea of truth is an arena of contestation?

It is through pervasive visualities and information that perspectives of caste, gender, and class are formed and articulated across media and public spaces. Ideologies and meanings, however, remain under contestation in public life. These are articulated with debates around sociopolitical and cultural practices. Mythologies are incorporated into education and sciences in anticipation of keeping majoritarian values intact. Therefore, it is necessary to question these modes of internalisation and the way they are circulated and consumed. An acknowledgment of differences in public emotions is direly needed during such turmoil within the public sphere.

The question of ‘objective realities’ is one that the social sciences have problematised comprehensively. The postmodern rejection of grand narratives and the focus on partial truths has been seen by some scholars as being in some way responsible to the post-truth phenomenon. Does the postmodern rejection of an objective reality imply that truths can be picked out, as if from a buffet? Even as we assert the differences between post-modern philosophies and the post-truth phenomenon, it is more important than ever that we move away from binaries and focus on the complex nuances of the representation of sociopolitical realities.

This seminar calls for papers that interrogate the ideas of truth and post-truth especially in, though not limited to, the media engaging with economic, cultural, social and political complexities and ambiguities in our contemporary times.

Papers are invited on the following themes, but may engage with the idea of ‘post-truth’ outside of it as well:

  1. Representations, Invisibilities and Assertions of Identities
  2. Epistemologies of ‘Truth’
  3. Affect and the Performance of Politics
  4. Economics and Governance as Post-truth Discourse
  5. Visual and Consumer Cultures
  6. Popular Cultures
  7. Knowledge Construction and Revisionist Histories
  8. Pedagogy and Education
  9. Global Politics
  10. Social Media and Virality
  11. Technological Design of Mis/Information
  12. Censorship
  13. Satire and Meme Cultures
  14. Rumours, Lynch Mobs and Social Media
  15. The Politics of Forgetting: Erasure and Reframing of Injustice
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