Dr. Shakuntala Banaji is currently UK project director for The European Commission Horizon 2020 Young 5a funded project, CATCHEyoU - Constructing Active Citizenship with European youth: policies, practices, challenges and solutions, which investigates media constructions, participatory practices and policy visions of youth active citizenship. She is also Principal Investigator on Personalised Media and Participatory Culture (2015-2017) in collaboration with American University Sharjah, funded by the LSE Middle East centre's academic collaboration with Arab Universities Programme. Both projects shed light on the tensions and connections between rhetorics of citizenship or digital connectivity, and the actual barriers, networks, enablers and spaces of youth participation in civic and political life.
Shakuntala’s longstanding research interests include the socio-political contexts of audiences, the meaning, history and textual study of cinema, particularly South Asian media and Hindi films (aka Bollywood), representations of children, child labour and child rights, with a specific focus on South Asia and low income contexts in the global south, critical approaches to pedagogy, communication and development, politically and socially innovative development projects, news reception, tensions between popular and elite media, internet cultures, online civic participation, young people and cultural identities. Her research focuses on children and young people's interactions with media genres and technologies both old and new, and the ways in which interactions between childhood, youth, media, representation and group identities have been theorised in diverse philosophical, political, cultural and social contexts.
Her forthcoming book Children and Media in India is based on original interviews and observations with diverse children and families, as well as media producers and NGO staff in India over the past decade. It is available from Routledge in winter 2016. In particular, this book examines the ways in which children from different regions in India, social classes and backgrounds experience, participate in and make meaning from old and new media, school, local cultures and labour; the ways in which their lives in these arena are understood, represented and theorised in South Asia and the West; and the ways in which common theorisations of 'the digital', 'agency', and childhood serve to silence or elevate the interests of particular groups of children.
Shakuntala has been a contributor to the 46-country World Hobbit Project, January 2013-December 2015. This remains the biggest audience research project of all time, with more than 35,000 responses to the questionnaire! This project builds on previous audience research work in relation to comparative audience reception of film, and offers a fresh dataset with which to theorise the changing relationship of international films and audiences.
Previous research on online civic participation is available in The Civic Web co-authored with David Buckingham and on democracy and citizenship in Youth Participation in Democratic Life co-authored with Cammaerts, Bruter, Harrison and Anstead. Accessible summaries of these six years of research can also be found in a series of reports on the website www.civicweb.eu; in a Tedx talk given at the University of Hasselt, Belgium; in discussion with Professor Connor Gearty: ‘What does it Mean to be a Citizen?’; and in an accessible podcast of a webbinar on the site of the International Journal of Learning and Media - http://ijlm.net/webinarforum/21-civic-participation-dml-europe. The Civic Web, arose from EU Framework 6 funded research with young people and online civic producers across Europe and Turkey, examining technological tools for participation and links between online and offline civic participation, motivation, interactivity, context as well as national institutional responses.