Over the last ten years, the Sarai programme at CSDS has arguably been South Asia’s most prominent and productive platform for research and reflection on the transformation of urban space and contemporary realities, especially with regard to the interface between cities, information, society, technology, and culture. Sarai began work in 2000 on issues of media, urban life, and the public domain, at a time when such issues were hardly on the horizon in India. This mix of urbanization, media life, and information is now part of any serious thinking about the contemporary. Since its inception, Sarai has initiated research projects on media urbanism, critiques of intellectual property, free software, art practice and the public realm, language and the city, and many others. It has supported independent fellowship programmes, and held a host of events including conferences, workshops, and performances. Sarai’s ongoing projects include:
Media and Information Infrastructures: Histories and Contemporary Practices
Infrastructure has come to be an increasingly important object of social science and cultural-historical research. From roads and railways to river and seaborne transport, from dams and irrigation canals to electrical circuits, from telegraphs and telephones to cable networks and satellite communication, the question of infrastructure has been key to the evolution of the modern and contemporary world. Information is part of this co-evolution from script, through print as well as contemporary moves to the digital.
This research initiative frames the category of ‘information’ both as a critical problematic-a way of describing the world and its constituent processes-and as an environment-a field through which we can enter the contemporary and connect to its past. It links media, urbanism, and the governance of populations, while initiating new debates on privacy, public access, and welfare.
The City as Studio Programme
The City as Studio programme emerged in 2010 to intervene in the shaping of a responsive and engaged milieu of contemporary art and media practices through a cluster of dedicated art and media fellowships tied to a structure of studio situations and processes in Delhi. The fellowship brings together artists, media practitioners, intellectuals, writers, activists, and a variety of audiences alongside a series of cultural and artistic practices in the city of Delhi.
BIOSCOPE: SOUTH ASIAN SCREEN STUDIES
One of Sarai's publication ventures is the academic journal ‘BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies’. This is a blind peer-reviewed journal being published by Sage Publications biannually since January 2010. It is primarily centred in the areas of film and media studies, but also engages a wider orbit of image and sound practices.
THE SARAI READER
The Sarai Reader book series has been widely recognized as a site for critical and creative thinking. Previous Readers include: 'The Public Domain': Sarai Reader 01, 2001; 'The Cities of Everyday Life': Sarai Reader 02, 2002; 'Shaping Technologies': Sarai Reader 03, 2003; 'Crisis/Media': Sarai Reader 04, 2004; 'Bare Acts': Sarai Reader 05, 2005; 'Turbulence': Sarai Reader 06'; 'Frontiers': Sarai Reader 07; and 'Fear': Sarai Reader 08. All the Sarai Readers are available for free. BAHURUPIYA SHEHR, a collection of stories, biographies, conversations, blog entries, and reflections about the city of Delhi. Published by Rajkamal Prakashan, 2007. TRICKSTER CITY, an extraordinary composite of writings on the city of Delhi, written over a period of two years by a group of 20 young people who live in different places in Delhi, and who have, over the last several years, sustained among themselves and with others around them, a relationship of writing and conversing about the city. Published by Penguin, 2010.
Sarai Reader 09: Projections
A projection always involves an incandescent transference, some crossing of a void or darkness to effect luminous landings on a distant surface. Without projections, we would have no cinemas, no city plans, no forecasts, no wagers, no fantasies. Projections convect questions, magnify dreams and illuminate desires. Sarai Reader 09: Projections translates this imperative to act as a transport of illumination to build an axis of central questions.
The research agenda is historical and contemporary, archive based and ethnographic, and will traverse a variety of media, including radio, gramophone, cassette, photography, film, television, video, and digital forms. (Click for details)
The City as Studio programme emerged in 2010 to intervene in the shaping of a responsive and engaged milieu of contemporary art and media practices through a cluster of dedicated art and media fellowships tied to a structure of studio situations and processes in Delhi. (Click for details)