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Imagine Otherwise: Ani Maitra on Media and Identity in the Public Sphere

Imagine Otherwise: Ani Maitra on Media and Identity in the Public Sphere

June 11, 2020
Ani Maitra wearing a light blue shirt and tweed vest

The mediated politics of identity have animated movements as diverse as anticolonial nationalisms, multiple forms of feminism, transgender and disability rights struggles, and Indigenous protests for environmental justice. In all of these examples, media has been a primary and deeply public means through which such identity politics battles are fought, often in unpredictable ways.

The guest for today’s episode is Ani Maitra, who has a new book out that offers a fresh take on identity politics. Ani’s work highlights the vital need for critical media analysis and scholarly public engagement in our contemporary moment, particularly for marginalized populations.

In episode 113 of Imagine Otherwise, I interview Ani about the role of scholarly public engagement in debates over identity, the transnational politics of global queer cinema, how to write for diverse audiences beyond the academy, and why centering affinity and difference is how Ani imagines otherwise.

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You can also read the transcript and show notes on the Ideas on Fire website, which have links to Ani’s work and all the concepts, people, and events we discuss on the show (great for teaching!).

Guest: Ani Maitra

Ani Maitra is an associate professor of film and media studies at Colgate University. He also teaches in the LGBTQ studies and Asian studies programs.

Ani’s scholarship explores how media cultures inform and are informed by race, class, gender, and sexuality. If the term “identity politics” has come to mean collective struggles around these categories, Ani examines how and why media production, reception, and theory become valuable sites to reflect on both the conditions and effects of identity production in a critically global frame.

His writing has appeared in differences, Film Quarterly, Counterpunch, and Camera Obscura, and he is also a contributing editor at Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture.

In his book Identity, Mediation, and the Cunning of Capital (Northwestern University Press, 2020), Ani argues that identity politics is an aesthetic maneuver regulated by global capitalism. He demonstrates that the minority subject is split between multiple sites of aesthetic mediation while remaining firmly tied to capitalist systems of domination. This reflexive scrutiny of identity through an expansive view of media and mediation, Ani suggests, is a critical step toward imagining difference otherwise, in more egalitarian terms.

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