This project explores the convergence of right-wing hate speech and panic around the Covid-19 pandemic in India. In particular, I study the Islamophobic reactions to the Covid-19 crisis in India, where the pandemic has exacerbated the right-wing rhetoric against Muslims through fake news circulating over social media platforms. Many viral videos and images have unfairly singled out India’s Muslim population as the cause for the spread, and the term “coronajihad” has been used by right-wing agents to conjoin the rhetoric of Islamophobia with narratives of outbreak and contagion. Such media and its viral circulation accelerate and amplify notions of purity and class in the name of hygiene and disease control. Against this background, my project seeks to explore how multimedia digital utterances such as fake news, memes, videos and digital images during the Covid-19 crisis have adapted the language of biological contagion to amplify notions of religious and ethnic purity or impurity. Employing a media ethnographic framework and fusing approaches from media studies, affect studies, disinformation studies and studies of communal/ethnic hatred and speech acts, this project asks, what are the specific ramifications of the pandemic for vulnerable minorities? What is the relationship between networked media forms and the “othering” of such minority groups in the specific context of the Covid-19 pandemic? And finally, what may we learn about the relationship between the language of viral contagion, media virality and the “viralization” of the minoritized other through the specific case of pandemic-related Islamophobia in India?
Assistant Professor, Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University