Shuddhabrata Sengupta on Thu, 17 May 2001 15:59:42 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> the new authoritarianism

To All at Nettime,

Followup on Ravi Sundarams posting on the new authoritarianism in india

More on the climate of authoritarianism that is creeping up on cybercafes in
India from Rana Dasgupta.

>From: Rana Dasgupta <>
>Subject: Re: [Reader-list] the new authoritarianism
>What is interesting about the article Ravi sent - as
>with most accounts of this issue - is that the
>statement of the problem ('hacking, credit card
>misuse, death threats, pornography, morphing and
>terrorism' ... 'threats of murder and extortion or
>porn mail') always seems either completely trivial
>compared to the draconian solution - or completely
>wild.  Even those advancing these counterthreats seem
>unable to state the threats in a convincing way.
>But in addition to the predictable sanctimoniousness
>about pornography there seems to be a strong class
>element to the description of the situation in Bombay
>that is presumably a major concern for the powers that
>be there.  I think a lot of this is about the
>disruption to class hierarchies that happens when
>armed guards around your house become completely
>ineffectual in preventing outsiders from communicating
>with you whenever they wish.  why else this double
>mention of death threats in the article?
>In a city where fabulous inequalities of wealth and a
>number of high-profile examples have made the threat
>of kidnapping/blackmail/murder/etc a part of the
>self-imagination of the elite, it does not seem too
>surprising that the easy access the Internet provides
>should be used to take advantage of this.  Just how
>easy this access is must alarm the police, whose hard
>work to keep the city segregated has no power over
>cybervilains.  (Presumably the Internet also allows
>would-be blackmailers to know much more about the
>misdemeanours of their targets than ever before.)
>Is it fanciful to take this still further into class
>and caste anxieties about the promiscuous 'mixing up'
>of different people in the public space of a
>cybercafe, especially a public space that allows some
>people to think about lewd or criminal things whilst
>others work dutifully on their history coursework.
>or, worse still, mixing up in a virtual space where
>the traces of class and caste may be considerably
>effaced.  How can you tell when the cybershadow of an
>untouchable has fallen across you?
>Reader-list mailing list

Shuddhabrata Sengupta
SARAI: The New Media Initiative
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
29, Rajpur Road, Delhi 110 052, India

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: