‘Culture, Communication and India’s Development: Contributions of Anthropology of Communication, Media and Communication’, a three-day national seminar hosted by the Department of Anthropology, University of Hyderabad, has been inaugurated on 27th August 2019. This seminar, which aims to honour the eminent cultural anthropologist, Prof. Binod C. Agrawal, is organized with the support of UNESCO Chair on Community Media, Department of Communication, UoH; Association for Development Communication; and Indian Council of Social Science Research, Southern Regional Centre (ICSSR-SRC). Prof. Agrawal’s pioneering studies in the budding field of communication from the 1970s onwards have been consequential in the growth of communication studies in various disciplines, including anthropology. In the contemporary context, anthropology and communication have been instrumental in forming and reforming the changing dimensions of the concept of development. Accordingly, the participants in the seminar from various disciplines will explore the interactions between communication, culture and development, and whether communication rooted in anthropological understanding can influence the breadth and depth of the reach of public policies.
The inaugural session started at 10.00 am on 27th August with Prof. M. Romesh Singh, HoD, Department of Anthropology, UoH, welcoming the dignitaries to the dais. Prof. B. Raja Shekhar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor-2, chaired the session. Prof. P. Venkata Rao, Dean, School of Social Sciences, UoH; Prof. Vinod Pavarala, Department of Mass Communication, UoH; Prof. Arbind Sinha, Association of Development Communication; Prof. N. Sudhakar Rao, Department of Anthropology, UoH; and Prof. Ramdas Ghambhir, Department of Anthropology, SP University, Pune were the other dignitaries on the dais.
Prof. P. Venkata Rao delivered the welcome address, in which he summarized the importance of the University of Hyderabad as a prestigious institution of higher learning and recollected the association of Prof. Binod C. Agrawal with the university and the department of Anthropology. Prof. Pavarala provided an overview of the UNESCO Chair on Community Media and how it supports policy advocacy, community media, grassroots organization and networking etc. He commented on the contributions of Prof. Agrawal to the field of communication studies. Prof. Arbind Sinha emphasized strengthening the association between communication, development and culture and encouraging young researchers.
Prof. Sudhakar Rao talked about the conception of a seminar to honour Prof. Agrawal. He noted the eminence of Prof. Agrawal as the pioneer in the field of communication studies who studied the influence of television, satellite communication and internet in their nascent stages. The introduction of newer modes of communication has galvanized the process of globalization in the current context. The seminar, said Prof. Sudhakar Rao, aims to carry forward the work initiated and carried out by Prof. Agrawal, take stock of the current status of communication studies and identify gaps in culture, communication and development. Prof. B. Raja Shekhar, in chief guest’s address, appreciated the interdisciplinary collaboration encouraged by the UoH and called for more collaboration which could improve the quality of research work through shared knowledge and methods.
Prof. Ramdas Ghambhir delivered the keynote address. Tracing the notion of development in the academia through history, he noted that three key paradigms—modernization, dependency and participation—have influenced the perception of the root of underdevelopment, solution of underdevelopment, role of development communication, and policy approaches. Corresponding to each paradigm, the role of media and communication in development communication has fluctuated between imitation of the west, dissociation from the west, and cultural sensitivity and community participation, respectively. The presence of all three approaches to development communication as well as the intersectionality of different structures for development makes the field highly dynamic. Using case studies, Prof. Ghambhir illustrated the role of cultural context of development and people’s active choice in selecting development schemes. It is in such a dynamic field that anthropology needs to locate itself for effective, multi-centered development planning and culturally-sensitive communication.
A felicitation event celebrating the contributions of Prof. Agrawal took place after a short tea break. Prof. Arbind Sinha provided an introduction to the immense contributions of Prof. Agrawal to the fields of anthropology, communication and development while Prof. P. Venkata Rao and Prof. Shalina Mehta reminisced on their associations with Prof. Agrawal. Prof. Vinod Pavarala talked about the contributions of Prof. Agrawal to anthropology of communication. Prof. Agrawal was the pioneering figure in the field of participatory communication studies, which emphasized the participation of respondents for the success of a project. Dr. Sabeha Mufti and Prof. Padma Rani were among others who felicitated Prof. Agrawal. The inaugural session was followed by four technical sessions on culture and communication; culture, religion and performance; media and communication technologies as a tool for development; and health communication.