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Elliot Montpellier, M.A.

University of Pennsylvania

Making Media, Making Muslimness: Drama Creators’ Pious Identities in the Digital Worlds of Pakistani Entertainment Television

The proposed research will trace how creators of Pakistani entertainment television cultivate digital public personas centred on Islamic piety. Drawing from ethnographic data collected in Karachi, Pakistan in 2018 and 2021 and ongoing digital ethnography, I focus on digital content produced in conjunction with Pakistani’s core media industry – the serialised television drama – by individuals embedded within this creative economy. With an interest in Instagram, LinkedIn, and online news site, I examine how individuals’ articulation of religiosity is framed alongside their work in the industry.
As part of a wider research interest that traces Pakistani television’s circulation as a set of processes that has contributed to bringing piety to the fore of Pakistani public culture, my research will examine how media personnel embody various forms of piety – through discourse, dress, circulation of religious visual culture – and how these shape notions of reputation, respectability, celebrity, and success.
In contrast to focus on political and insurgent uses of digital media in Islamic contexts (e.g., Anzalone 2021) and media anthropological interest in self-professed religious media (e.g, Meyer 2015, Spadola 2014), my work investigates the everyday religious aspects of media industries in the context of a South Asian Muslim society. Adopting a critical media industry studies approach (e.g., Cunningham and Craig 2019, Sanson and Curtin 2016), my work documents how the small (by global standards) yet dynamic media capital (Curtin 2003) of Karachi’s serialised drama industry has responded to and deployed the new affordances of digital televisual modes of distribution and audience engagement while remaining connected to and embedded in local contexts, where relating to and being part of a wide religious public is paramount.

Main Research Topics

  • Media Industries
  • Religion
  • Digital Media

Elliot Montpellier, M.A.

University of Pennsylvania

Fellow at CAIS from June to August 2023