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Seminar Blogs

“The Incomplete Citizen: Performatives of citizenship through a Post humanist praxis” – Aishwarya Kumar

In January 2020, during the student protests in India, political participation saw a new wave that had long been present and yet hadn’t been harnessed and recognized as a form of citizenship participation. This performance involved the decentralized production of knowledge in the light of weakening institutional journalism and governance. Dissatisfied with the news that was being broadcasted – one that had increasingly imbued the divisive and performative representation of the upper caste in Indian society – the student community in India and abroad, seemed to have taken the responsibility of knowledge production and dissemination in their own hands. Across social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and blogs, we could see this emerging form of performativity come to the forefront, one that transformed what it meant to being and doing as a citizen.

Other than being present on the streets for protesting the draconian laws by the government, gestures of sharing, linking, close reading, and accumulating information became ways of performing in solidarity while simultaneously this led to the performing individual getting identified as a citizen. On one hand, this emergence posed a threat to nationalistic notions of citizenship by challenging the delimitations of the human body – some due to geographical distances, while some imposed by the government through curfews, lockdowns, and communication blockages. On the other hand, it was disrupting what bounded nationality represented and reproduced for decades. By being directly in the information produced, this citizen was attempting to transform the very texture of nationalistic politics.

In her online lecture on Post-Publishing and Performative Publications, Dr. Janneke Adema discussed the contribution of Post humanities to the practices of Structural humanities. In this lecture, she focused on the notion of undoing scholarship that disrupts the fixed and representational forms of thinking. Focusing on other forms of performing scholarship Adema uses vocabulary such as ‘hybrid’, ‘experimental’, ‘enhanced’, ‘remixed’, ‘living’ and ‘multimodal’, all of which point towards an open future of publishing where the publication becomes only a part of the process rather than a finished product. In that sense then, these forms of performing publication indicate a certain unfinishedness that allow an ongoingness to its evolution in form and content.

This very attribute that seems to be an advantage that the Post Humanities brings to the table, has long been used as a criticism against the forms of knowledge production we witnessed during the protests. Institutional organisations and technologies of power that had dominated the media for long, targeted citizens who spoke up against the government on such platforms. Interestingly this time around, the reasons for retribution were less to do with the alliance of the individual itself but more to do with the alleged miscommunication of true information. The students on many levels had taken it upon themselves to research, document, assess, evaluate, and then share, all while being aware of the responsibility they were accepting by taking up this role.

In that sense, the praxis of Post humanities while reconfiguring our perspective and ways of thinking for a non-binary world (of the public/ private realm), was also actively becoming a political tool that could be employed to dismantle ideologies, perspectives and reproductions of past political gestures. Additionally, it had managed to take the power of knowledge production away from the gatekeepers of society to the public sphere that was dispersed globally. While there are hierarchical politics within this new form of citizenship that need to be unpacked, I imagine the access to such gestures provides a strong foothold for political theorists to embark on a journey of reflecting on gestures otherwise unrecognised but those that are potent tools for political transformation.