CARE Director’s Blog: Reflecting back on 2021: Academia in the politics of transformation

by Mohan J. Dutta on December 30, 2021

The year 2021 brought with it a lesson that I hope to carry forward in my academic journey in the coming years.

That the sources of power will seek to silence the voices emergent from the margins is a lesson I have borne witness to over the last two decades of academic-community work, in some instances, at personal cost. 

As we built the activist-in-residence program, starting with the transformative conversations with Braema Mathi, Sue Bradford, and Tame Iti, the organizing role of power in silencing dissenting voices became all too evident.

From generating disinformation campaigns, to planting false narratives, to carrying out witch hunts framed as audits, to targeting academics with hate messages, threats of violence, and incarceration, dominant structures will draw upon a wide array of strategies and tools to silence academic voices that speak with and alongside the margins.

In the face of these practices of silencing, academia can continue to thrive as a vital space of dissent that generates oppositional intellectual registers, working alongside intellectuals and activists in movements, political parties, and communities.

2021 brought home the message that academia is a critical resource in the ongoing work of challenging extreme neoliberalism, hate politics, and authoritarian populism. Academia is a powerful space for resisting, intervening into, and dismantling these structures of dominant power that threaten to colonize communities, societies and democracies across the globe. 

This recognition of the power of academia as a space that can offer a critical anchor to dismantling the control of dominant actors is vital to the ongoing politics of transformation. 

The role of academics in building infrastructures of listening to voices of the subaltern margins that are hitherto erased, working alongside social movements and activist organizing, is an important ingredient in the labour of challenging oppressive structures.

For academics to participate in and sustain dissent, our power lies in forging solidarities as collectives. These collectives ought to be built both within academia, and outside academia. 

Within academia, our ongoing work ought to build strategies for challenging the precarization of academic labour. Centering conversations on academic freedom and connecting these conversations to the ongoing challenges of precarious academic labour are vital to our unions in the education sector. Connecting across diverse spaces, linking with the struggles of non-academic staff, connecting with the struggles of students are vital elements to sustaining collectives within academia.

Connecting across spaces in academia also translates importantly into connecting across geographies. In the face of the increasing repression of academic freedom across geographies, listening across, centering attention on, and building bridges that reach out to the margins of global geopolitics is an essential ingredient in a global politics of transformation.

Outside of academia, building connections with unions, working-class movements, movements against neoliberalism, Indigenous movements, movements for diversity (gender, race, ability) are critical resources in sustaining the politics of transformation. 

Most importantly, 2021 has highlighted the vital role of community agency in empowering academia in its role in the politics of transformation. 

The recognition that the neoliberal onslaught on academia that has privatized it through donor and state control can be resisted by re-turning to community, forms the basis for re-imagining the relationship between academia and community. 

That academics are accountable to communities at the margins re-imagines the textures and roles of academia in creative ways. In this imaginary, academics are sustained by communities,  and in turn, are committed to sustaining communities.

It is in this friendship with communities, particularly communities at the margins, that academia offers a politics of transformation.

Link to the blogpost on : https://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2021/12/reflecting-back-on-2021-academia-in.html

CARE welcomes Dr. Leon Salter, recipient of the 2021 MBIE Science Whitinga Research Fellowship

We at CARE are delighted to welcome Dr. Leon Salter, the 2021 recipient of the MBIE Science Whitinga Research Fellowship. Dr. Salter will be leading CARE’s work on precarity, labour and digital futures. Dr Leon Salter graduated with a PhD in Communication and Journalism in 2018. Leon has taught widely on the Masters and Bachelor of Communication at Massey and his research interests are in Political Communication, Digital Media, Social Justice Movements and Unionism. Leon began working for CARE on the Experiences with COVID-19 among gig workers project and was awarded the MBIE Science Whitinga Research Fellowship in June 2021 to chart the expansion of the gig economy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Tune in to RNZ’s Saturday Morning programme hosted by Kim Hill on Saturday 4 December 2021 @ 8.10 with Prof. Mohan Dutta: the worrying rise of right-wing Hindutva thinking

Twitter: @SaturdayRNZ

Follow this podcasthttps://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday

On today’s show:

A strain of Hindu nationalism, Hindutva, has grown in global prominence since 2014 under Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party. Now tensions are rising in the Indian community, both here and internationally, between those supporting Hindutva, and those concerned it promotes racism and Islamophobia. At the centre of the row in New Zealand is Massey University Professor Mohan J Dutta. He has written on how Hindutva thinking is being used to create a sense of pride in the Indian diaspora, yet is also leading to prejudice. Dutta has been the subject of online abuse, and a petition has been circulating, asking that Massey University and Dutta cease such publishing. Dutta is himself a Hindu and says supporters of Hindutva wrongly conflate it with hinduism, which is a far broader church.

#CAREMassey #MasseyUni #RightWing #Hindutva #RNZSaturday Morning #rnz

CARE Activist In Residence Public Talk: Organising gig workers in Aotearoa: successes, challenges and strategies for the future

CARE Activist In Residence Public Talk: Organising gig workers in Aotearoa: successes, challenges and strategies for the future

with Anita Rosentreter – Strategic Project Co-ordinator,

First Union Sam Jones – Director of Health at E tū Union

Julian Ang – Former member of NZ Rideshare Association & Advocate for Uber driver rights

Wednesday, 1st December @ 6 – 8pm NZDT

LIVE ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/590942195262842

Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/249167717206923

Follow us on Facebook: @CAREMassey

RSVP Here: https://forms.office.com/r/PiWKUU4bAz

Link to CARE website: www.carecca.nz

TALK ABSTRACT:
Gig work is growing rapidly in Aotearoa and internationally, and is expected to play a key role in the post-pandemic economy. This panel of experts is an opportunity to take stock and reflect on the successes of the union movement in combatting the kinds of insecure work that characterise the gig economy, as well as discuss the unique challenges it presents for organising. Also, strategies will be shared on how best to organise gig workers in the future.

Moderated by Professor Mohan Dutta & Dr. Leon Salter

© 2021, Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research & Evaluation (CARE). All rights reserved.

CARE Activist In Residence: Anti-Racism Interventions with Byron Clark

Dates: 18th – 22nd October 2021
Online Events via Facebook Livestream: @CAREMassey

RSVP Here: CARE Activist In Residence: Anti-Racism Interventions with Byron Clark

CARE is looking forward to this activist-in-residence conversation with Byron Clark. Byron has played an instrumental role in exposing the networks of white supremacy in Aotearoa. We will explore together the collaborations between white supremacy and Hindutva, and strategies for resisting the fascist forces.

Online Event Dates:

Tuesday, 19 October @ 1 pm
CARE in Conversation with Byron Clark and Prof. Mohan Dutta

CARE in Conversation with Byron Clark and Prof. Mohan Dutta


Byron Clark is an activist from Christchurch. For the past two years his work has focused on the reemergence of the far-right and the spread of misinformation online. Much of this activism has taken the form of video essays on YouTube mixing humour with educational content. Clark also has a background in oral history, having recorded an oral history of the ‘Occupy’ protest in Christchurch that took place in 2011 and has written for Fightback, Overland and David Farrier’s Webworm.

Wednesday, 20 October @ 12 pm
CARE Public Talk – Digital Hate in Aotearoa with Byron Clark

Digital Hate in Aotearoa

Over the past decade the world has watched as movements like the alt-right and Qanon have emerged online, and have in turn affected offline politics. Aotearoa has not been immune to this phenomenon. This talk examines the origins of hate on the internet, and how social media fueled its growth, with a particular focus on the new far-right in Aotearoa.

Thursday, 21 October @ 11 am
CARE Workshop – Countering Online Hate and Misinformation with Byron Clark

Countering online hate and misinformation

Everyone has a role to play in countering the spread of hate and misinformation. This workshop demonstrated how to report content to social media platforms as well as utilising institutions like Netsafe and the Broadcasting Standards Authority. It also featured discussion about preventing radicalisation and possibilities for de-radicalisation.
White Paper – Anti-Social Networks: Hate and misinformation online and strategies for responding.

Friday, 22 October @ 10 am
CARE White Paper Launch and Strategies for Responding with Byron Clark and Prof.Mohan Dutta

White Paper – Anti-Social Networks: Hate and misinformation online and strategies for responding.

This paper examines the networks spreading hate and misinformation that have emerged online in Aotearoa in the past few years, and how they have been able to influence mainstream politics despite their small numbers. Ideologies and conspiracy theories from overseas – in particular the United States – have mixed with false narratives that are locally specific. The authors look at strategies for countering these narratives.

#CAREMassey #CAREMasseyNZ #CARECCA #ActivistInResidence #CAREAIRP #AntiRacism

© 2021, Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research & Evaluation (CARE). All rights reserved.

CARE PUBLIC TALK- A Strategic Silence: Hindutva Blindness In India’s Security Community with Amit Julka

CARE PUBLIC TALK- A Strategic Silence: Hindutva Blindness In India’s Security Community with Amit Julka

Thursday, 7th October 2021 @ 9 PM NZDT

Watch the PREMIERE on Facebook @caremassey

Watch the premiere on : https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey

Talk Abstract:

The antecedents of India’s security community – comprising academics, policy analysts, and ex-officials from the diplomatic core and the armed forces – can be traced back to the late colonial era. Over the course of its history, it has focused its attention on numerous actors and movements, including Maoist insurgents, ethnonationalist groups, Islamic fundamentalists, and external rivals such as Pakistan and China. Curiously absent from this list however are Hindu extremist groups. This absence is particularly noteworthy given their long history of challenging India’s constitution, orchestrating pogroms, as well as systemically perpetrating acts of violence that would otherwise be labelled domestic terrorism if performed by non-majoritarian groups or individuals. In this talk, I argue that this absence is not accidental – it arises from disciplinary socialization, and a denial that is rooted in what Gramsci calls mass common-sense. This invisibilization of majoritarian extremist violence and its subsequent effects is also exacerbated through the material precarity that junior researchers face in terms of limited employment opportunities and low wages, should they want to speak up about such ‘controversial issues’. As a result of these ideational and material pressures, the security imaginary that is produced through this discursive silencing is one that aligns with interests of dominant groups both within and outside the nation. By decoupling the two and questioning the ‘object’ of what is being securitized and against whom, I intend to conclude the discussion by showcasing the invisible impact of this silence, namely, how it makes us (the strategic community) complicit in furthering majoritarianism, both at the state and the societal level.

#HindutvaBlindness #India #Hindutva #CAREMassey #MasseyUni

© 2021, Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research & Evaluation (CARE). All rights reserved

CARE Op-Ed: The communicative strategies of Hindutva

by Prof. Mohan Dutta, Massey University

Professor Mohan Dutta, director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at Massey University.

Hindutva, a political ideology that seeks to construct India in the structure of a Hindu nation (Hindu Rashtra), draws its conceptual tenets from the organising framework of fascism. As a modern project, Hindutva is rooted in the desire to create a Hindu nation that is organised on the principles of the European nation-state through cultural hegemony that homogenises the population, simultaneously erasing the rights of religious minorities.

The fascist root of Hindutva is evident in the writings of one of the key architects of the concept, MS Golwalkar, who writes: “German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races – the Jews … a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

Note here the deep interplays of the ideology of Hindutva and white supremacy. The purity of race and culture that forms the hate structure of white supremacy is mobilised in the political formation of Hindutva. Hindutva embodies the colonial imposition of a politics of purity through the purge of the ‘other’ organised by the state.

One of the key architects of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, wrote the book Hindutva in 1923, outlining the concepts of a common nation (rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common culture or civilisation (sanskriti). Note the parallels here with the ideology of the German Nazi party, anchored in ein volk(one people), ein reich (one nation), ein Fuhrer (one leader).

At the heart of this ideology is the production of the ‘other’ that is outside of the nation. Similar to the construction of Jews as the outside of ein volk in Nazi ideology, Muslims and Christians are constructed as the outside of the Hindu rashtra in the ideological construction of Hindutva.

The effects of this ideology are evident in the hate and violence that have been directed at Muslims. The ongoing political project of disenfranchising Muslims through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a reminder of the Nuremberg Laws passed in Nazi Germany to strip German Jews of their citizenship.

The communicative infrastructure of Hindutva is deployed through the articulation of a monolithic ‘Hinduness’ as the basis for organising the political project. To belong, one has to declare their ‘Hinduness’ and allegiance to the Hindu Rashtra, as defined by the political project of Hindutva.

To dissent from this monolithic vision of Hindutva is to be anti-Hindu. Within the organising structures of India, to dissent against the ideology of Hindutva is to be anti-Indian. The political project of Hindutva threatens the pluralism, polymorphism, and democratic ethos of Hinduism.

The celebrated Indian film-maker Anand Patwardhan, observed at the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, “If Hindutva is Hinduism, then the Ku Klux Klan is Christianity.”

The recent attacks on me, the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), Massey University, and on academics globally writing on and debating about the pernicious effects of Hindutva, are reflective of the hegemonic communicative infrastructure of Hindutva. At the heart of this hegemonic infrastructure is the silencing of dissent while imposing a monolithic ideology. In this instance, Hindutva proclaims to speak for all Hindus as it carries out this fundamental attack on academic freedom.

From trolls reproducing digital hate, to hateful propaganda published in diaspora digital portals, to letter writing campaigns targeting the university, to petitions attacking the university for steadfastly supporting academic freedom, forces of Hindutva draw on a wide range of strategies. Hindutva deploys bullying and rhetorical fallacies to silence dissent because it lacks the tools of argumentation to appeal to reason.

Referring to these forces of Hindutva at work to silence academic freedom in the form of the organised attacks on the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, Professor Gyan Prakash, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University, observes: “The extraordinary thing about the conference was the massive disinformation campaign by those seeking to prevent the academic scrutiny of Hindutva. The campaign launched against this conference was concerted, comprehensive, and entirely without scruples. As has been covered in the Guardian and Al Jazeera, many participants received threats, including death threats. We know that, as a co-sponsoring institution, you also faced overwhelming pressure to pull out from this conference. The threats include nearly every threat to academic freedom listed on the AAUP’s (American Association of University Professors) website.”

Of particular concern in western democracies are the threads of foreign influence and interference into academic freedom and the fabric of pluralism.

In western democracies, Hindutva seeks to silence criticism by communicatively inverting the violence perpetuated by the political ideology of Hindutva, while simultaneously playing to the ethos of superficial western multiculturalism. It projects a narrative of fragility, constructing references to Hinduphobia, in seeking to assert its cultural hegemony in the diaspora, while simultaneously silencing dissent and articulations of social justice. Hindutva actively erases the voices of adivasis (indigenous people), oppressed caste communities, women experiencing gender violence, gender diverse communities, and minority communities in seeking to establish the hegemony of its monolithic values.

In our work at CARE that seeks to co-create spaces for the voices of the ‘margins of the margins’ to be heard, we will continue to pursue our justice-based scholarship in spite of the organised forces of hate seeking to silence these voices by policing the term Hindutva. We are empowered in this work by the steadfast support of the leadership of Massey University in safeguarding our academic freedom, and in the protections offered by the Education Act 1989.

Related articles

Professor Mohan J. Dutta recognised as Distinguished Scholar


Professor Mohan Dutta named ICA Fellow

Article Source: Massey University News


© 2021, Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research & Evaluation
(CARE). All rights reserved.

Professor Mohan J. Dutta is recognized as a Distinguished Scholar by National Communication Association (NCA)

CARE congratulates Professor Mohan J. Dutta, Dean’s Chair Professor and Director, CARE for his recognition as a 2021 National Communication Association (NCA) Distinguished Scholar

Presented annually, the Distinguished Scholar Award is NCA’s highest accolade. It honours a lifetime of scholarly achievement in the study of human communication. Recipients are selected by their peers to showcase the best of the communication discipline.

NCA logo image source: https://www.natcom.org/

Over a span of two decades, Professor Dutta has developed the culture-centered approach through his ethnographic justice-driven communication scholarship carried out in solidarity with communities at the “margins of the margins” across the globe. Spanning seventeen countries across four continents, the impact of this scholarship is felt in communities experiencing structural deprivation, through the creation of infrastructures for voice, participation, and community democracy. Fostering community participation in everyday grassroots democracies for social change, the program of research led by Professor Dutta has created community development solutions; designed material infrastructures such as community-owned food systems, hospitals, educational infrastructures, and systems of clean drinking water; led community-owned advocacy and activist campaigns, and guided public policy.

The Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) built by Dutta has led and carried out over fifty community-led social change projects across the globe, working with Indigenous communities, low-wage migrant workers, refugees, sex workers, precarious workers, domestic workers, rural communities, communities experiencing poverty, disabled communities, rainbow communities, minority communities, ageing communities, and farmers. The activist-in-residence programme at the Center, white papers, and community dialogues created anchors for structural transformation.

Theoretically, the framework of the culture-centered approach has been recognised as one of the most significant theories of communication, reflected in the Charles H. Woolbert Research Award, given to a “journal article or book chapter that has stood the test of time and has become a stimulus for new conceptualizations of communication phenomena.” His work with landless oppressed caste women farmers in Telangana organised into a cooperative has been recognised with the NCA Golden Anniversary Monograph Award. The CCA has formed the basis for over hundred research projects in marginalised communities across the globe.

Upon the recognition with the Distinguished Scholar award, noted Professor Dutta,

“The significant challenges of health and wellbeing, poverty, inequality, climate change, food security, access to clean drinking water, and peace and social cohesion outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals call for creative solutions built through community leadership and participation. I am humbled with this recognition as it speaks to the transformative power of communication, and particularly of voice infrastructures at the margins in leading the processes of structural transformation.”

In carrying out this work, Professor Dutta has educated, mentored and nurtured over three generations of students, community leaders, and activists, many of whom represent marginalised identities. His mentorship of scholars from the Global South has been recognised with the International Communication Association Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award. Earlier this year, he was recognised with the NCA Health Communication Division  Award for “Outstanding contributions to promoting Equity and Inclusion.”

Professor Dutta is also recognised with the 2015 ICA Applied Public Policy Communication Researcher Award and is an ICA Fellow.

The NCA citation reads,

“Dr. Dutta’s research examines the role of advocacy and activism in challenging marginalizing structures, the relationship between poverty and health, and the ways in which participatory culture-centered processes serve as axes of global social change, among other topics. Dr. Dutta’s research program includes 10 books, over 200 articles and book chapters, and has been cited over 12,000 times. Dr. Dutta provides extensive intellectual leadership; they have directed 46 doctoral dissertations, facilitated numerous workshops, and served as editor of Journal of Applied Communication Research.”

Professor Dutta will be receiving the award at the NCA 107th Annual Convention in November.

#CAREMassey #MasseyUni #CARECCA #National Communication Association #NCA21

© 2021, Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research & Evaluation (CARE). All rights reserved.