Purba Das, associate professor of communication studies at Ohio University Southern Campus, answered additional questions about her work on stereotypes, identities, media, and hegemonies.
Another topic you pursue is women’s empowerment in rural India. What is noticeable in women’s narratives (in a particular rural group in Northern India) is that they were not even aware they were denied the basic social right to their lives’ decisions. Familial and societal restrictions confined them to the boundaries of home and denied them the right to partake in societal processes. The very act of being a member of a women’s group provides the women opportunity to create an agentic space from where they are able to address entrenched sociocultural issues not just within the confines of their personal lives, but also at the macro societal level.
Closer to your adopted home, you explored the legacy of environmentalism in Appalachia vis-à-vis communication. I studied environmental health risks of residents below the poverty line—marginalized people—and possible solutions as dialogically constructed by them. The dialogue with residents revealed areas of ambivalence and dialectical tensions. Although participants demonstrated deep concern for their health, they did not blame their socioeconomic reality of poverty for health issues. Instead, they categorically put environmental pollution, lack of government regulation and monitoring, and negligence of chemical plants at the helm of health hazards.
One course you teach is “Communication between Cultures.” Another is “Intercultural Communication.” Some premises of such bridge-type classes? Increase understanding of cultural identity and the basic concepts, principles, and skills regarding communication between persons from different cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Explore the interconnected relationship between culture and communication and relate that to real-life experiences. Understand that culture and communication are both theoretically rooted in the idea of a socially constructed reality. Understand the relationship among culture, language, and communication. Understand the relationship between culture and communication by looking at communicative practices in various contexts—gender, class, race, disability, sexuality, sexual orientation, and so on.
You were one of five Ohio University Regional Higher Education faculty members named a Collaborative Online International Learning fellow for the 2015-16 academic year. Summarize your undertakings. I proposed incorporating a global learning component in two courses: Communication between Cultures, with the intent of collaborating with folks in India and Cuba, and Women and Health, with the intent of collaborating with folks in India and Colombia.
The notion of “legacy”—applied however occurs to you—in India versus the U.S.?
India’s sheer diversity of faiths, ethnicities, linguistic groups, cuisines, morés, and beliefs have coexisted for centuries through synergy, assimilation, and accommodation. I find that in the U.S., too, but mostly on the coasts and in bigger cities. Acceptance is key to both societies and what makes them fascinating yet complex. In the U.S., social status plays a less significant role than in India, where, unfortunately, ascriptive status (social class or stratum primarily via hereditary) often plays a significant role.
ABOVE: Purba Das studies identities and stereotypes as displayed by media. She is an associate professor of communication studies at Ohio University’s Southern Campus. She is pictured on January 22, 2017 among statues in Kolkata, also known as Calcutta, in the West Bengal state of her native India. Photo by Subrata Biswas/AP Images