GEC Researcher of the Month – Priyam Sinha

I am Priyam Sinha, and I defended my doctoral thesis on 15th April 2024 and will soon be graduating from the Department of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. As a media anthropologist, my research focuses on the intersections of disability, gender, film, affect, diaspora and culture studies, and sociology of labour. My recent PhD dissertation, “Disability in New Bollywood: Mapping Production and Circulation of Affect”, foregrounds the multifaceted constituents of disability making, circulation and reception across contemporary creative media industries. Through a multi-sited digital ethnography that spanned over 18 months between 2021 and 2023, I shed light on the processes and relationalities of disability making and reception and their implications in circulating a public culture and societal understanding of disability.

My research findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Media, Culture and Society and South Asian Diaspora. I am also a host of a podcast channel, New Books Network, that prioritises public scholarship and published on platforms like FemAsia, Café Dissensus and Economic and Political Weekly, among others, to ensure that the role of cinema and new media industries as a soft power is publicly discussed.

As a doctoral candidate, I have conducted workshops and given guest lectures on disability studies, media studies, film theory, research ethics in social sciences and qualitative research methods across online and in-person events for the South Asian Studies Programme (National University of Singapore), Centre for Disability Research and Training (India), College of Alice & Peter Tan (National University of Singapore), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), University of Augsburg (Germany), Ateneo De Manila University (Philippines), among others. Recently, I was awarded the Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Award for demonstrating excellence in teaching.

I have also presented my work at various international conferences like the International Sociological Association (in Melbourne), the Annual Conference on South Asia (Wisconsin-Madison), the British Sociological Association (UK), and the Association for Asian Studies (Ann Arbor), among others.

Apart from such academic work, I am a cinephile, a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and, occasionally, a spoken poet. I have exhibited and sold commissioned artwork across universities in India, Singapore, and Japan.

Current Research:

My doctoral thesis foregrounds the New Bollywood as a post-1990s phenomenon through the actors, networks and assemblages that produce and consume variants of the disabled body. I trace the relational and processual materiality of disability construction by highlighting the myriad labour practices, belief systems, reflexive tactics and preoccupations of filmmakers and consumers. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork and an archival study, I foreground the circulations of affect by proposing the framework of a “disability affect.” To explain the multifaceted constituents of disability representation, I examine the situatedness, routineness, and eventfulness of everyday experiences that influence cinema production and reception. Such a study that foregrounds the South Asian context, its production practices, and labour precarity is unprecedented. It will contribute to a broader investigation of the ideational and industrial hybridity, non-linearity, content creation interdependencies, entanglements, and negotiations within the temporality of New Bollywood while shifting the Eurocentric focus on scholarship on media industries and disability studies.

To facilitate the ethnographic fieldwork, I was a participant observer in editing rooms, across studios of costume designers and prosthetics artists in Bollywood. I also interacted with many people with disabilities to understand their everyday lives. Furthermore, I used social media platforms for networking and rapport-building with filmmaking practitioners and people with disabilities, who eventually eased into online interviews and in-person meetings. It strengthened my ability to moderate hybrid forms of research, interaction and teaching. To make my study seem like an interactive storyboard accessible to the public beyond academic networks, I integrated observational and analytical sketching, mind maps and flowcharts. Broadly, developing diverse methods in collecting and representing data strengthened the richness of my ethnographic insights while making it a thoughtful, innovative, and creative story on film production cultures, assemblages of creative new media industries, disability, and everyday life in South Asia.

Areas of Study:

Media Studies, Production cultures, Cultural Anthropology, Disability Studies, South Asian Studies, Affect Studies, Gender Studies