Media Anthropology
4 min readJan 6, 2021

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A Grad Student Manifesto: An Exercise in Conscientious Praxis

  1. Map out the debates in the space that you occupy, and the space that you want to belong to.
  2. Observe actions. Go beyond right-sounding words and speeches, to closely observe the individual’s actions. Academia is rife with big talk. Look for synchronisation in talk and action.
  3. Do your research. Read the work of the department you belong to, to understand every individual’s path, inspirations and aspirations. As someone occupying space in the department, your job is two-fold: to ensure that your own journey does not get appropriated, and to aid positively the journeys of those that you’d like to associate with. That’s a positive way to collaborate.
  4. Be mindful of predators — of all kinds — the less said, the better, especially if you’re a young woman who believes in owning her work and struggle. The hallowed walls of the academy have been made to offer sanctuary to some of the biggest human rights violations, grossest misuse of power, sinister use of knowledge to twist things up according to convenience. As you navigate the maze and the power trips and bloated egos, you need to remind yourself of the intent behind your education constantly — — to seek some higher truth. Ensure that you stand up for yourself and the ownership of your work, but be smart about it. At the very least, you’d know who you want to genuinely respect at the end of the day.
  5. Be mindful of sly efforts at cooption — if you see that these efforts are continuous, ensure that you change those spaces in your favour. You *cannot* be coopted without your consent, especially when the efforts could be sly and sleazy. These can come from the most progressive and subversive of quarters.
  6. The academy also has individuals who have disdain for newer forms of inquiry and space-making. As a young person, you ought to draw on the rich experiences of the seniors, but make sure to make your own mark. If you’d like to move forward, you should be able to take people along, without having to pay obeisance to points of divergence.
  7. Having said that, the academy can be transformational, as it ought to be. Big names often battle their own demons, sometimes of their own making. It makes for great learning — — on how not to be, if you ever traverse the same path. Be sympathetic to everyone’s visible and invisible battles, just like you’d find that some are to yours. Put your foot down where needed, call the shots where you ought to, be prepared to be extremely humbled by knowledge as is. And never give up. If you dream of making the world a better place, it all begins at home.
  8. Be smart and strategise. Every dead-end is an opportunity to make a new turn. Strategising isn’t wily activity. It is the tool you need to survive with dignity and in recognition of the earnestness of your research and learning endeavour. Make sure to never underestimate the power of some sincere, well-meaning minds coming together. Do not bury yourself into a hole when faced with adversity. Collaborate. Communicate. Confide. Congregate. Student Union, anyone?
  9. Please keep a skipping rope handy to traverse across camps and cliques, to learn. You want to find your own path and bent, and that requires some meandering, trials and errors, and reflection.
  10. Show up for the right causes. Else, pack up those fat books and set them aside. Do a check for hypocrisy, every time you write evocative prose.
  11. There are always going to be people who are better off or worse off. Your job is to be rooted in your own circumstances but emerge out of them. That’s what mobility is all about. Allow yourself the opportunity to be mobile. No one else will. Be extremely conscious of your own unique circumstances, but never be so myopic as to negate every other experience.
  12. No one ever said no to personal development. However, make sure to define yours. Do not let the rest of the world define it for you. If your aspiration is to leave a mark in your field, find your niche. Grad school is a good time to start some etching.
  13. Look outside your discipline. It is your job to find similar strands of thought across complementary disciplines to be able to strengthen your claims. Find people from across disciplines. Admit that you do not know. Learn. Make linkages. Make mistakes. Feel terrible and stupid. Read some. Talk more. Bounce back.
  14. As a young female researcher, make space for your individual self, without bringing down the rest of the world. The feminist movement could do without fake feminism. Make sure to extend cooperation to other well-intentioned women, since you have to deal with sleazy cooption techniques at every other opportunity. If you aren’t granted your own space, change theirs and make it yours — the only consolation being that it would be a *just* space :)
  15. Spread your wings far and wide. Don’t be afraid of cliques or power centres. Do your job well. Be earnest. Learn. Grow. Labour hard. Do all of this in your own space and time. No one else’s ;)

Preeti Raghunath is the Founder-Editor of the Media Anthropology Research Collective-South Asia.

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Media Anthropology

Blog of the Media Anthropology Research Collective — South Asia