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International Conference Revisiting the Silk Road India and the Silk Road Regions Cultural Connections, Current Challenges

The Centre of Russian Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, organized a three-day International Conference 'Revisiting the Silk Road' on the theme: 'India and the Silk Road Regions – Cultural Connections, Current Challenges' at the Convention Centre, JNU. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Centre of Persian and Central Asian Studies, Centre of Arabic and African Studies, Centre of Indian Languages, Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies (School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies), Centre for Russian, Central Asian Studies, Centre for West Asia Studies, Gulf Studies Programme (School of International Studies), School of Arts and Aesthetics and the Academic Staff College.

This interdisciplinary International Conference was organised to facilitate contemporary dialogue on Silk Road region. It was an exciting event with lectures, symposia, oral and multimedia presentations, and focused group and interactive discussions covering the five Sections of the Conference: History and Civilisation, Culture and Language, Contemporary Social Concerns, Economic and Trade Cooperation and Geo-Political and Strategic Relations.

At the Inauguration, Prof. Meeta Narain welcomed the dignitaries and participants to the Conference.

Prof. Manu Mittal, Conference Director & the Chairperson of the Centre of Russian Studies delivered the welcome address and introduced the guests to the Conference.
The Conference was inaugurated by esteemed Vice-Chancellor, JNU, Prof. S. K. Sopory, the Dean of SLL&CS, Prof. Mohd. Aslam Islahi, distinguished historian, Prof. Irfan Habib, and the guests of honour – the Ambassadors of the countries of the Silk Road Regions. Dr. Suresh Babu, Director, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), released the Souvenir.
In his Presidential Address Prof. S. K. Sopory, Vice-Chancellor, JNU said, that if we try to explore the subject of Silk Road in depth, we will realize that it is an excellent topic for debate and deliberations for pursuit of cultural exchanges and transmission of knowledge. He appreciated the initiative taken by CRS to revisit the Silk Road regions through dialogues, symposium, presentations, exhibitions, food festivals and cultural programmes.
Prof. Aslam Islahi, Dean, SLL&CS talked about the role of Silk Routes in establishing linkages between India and other countries of Silk Road.

Dr. Suresh Babu, Director, MEA, released the Souvenir. While addressing the audience he told them about the role of Ministry of External Affairs, India in developing the relations between the Silk Road countries.

Prof. Irfan Habib, Professor Emeritus, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) delivered the Keynote Address

The distinguished representatives from the Embassies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Islamic State of Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, People's Republic of China, Republic of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Iran and the Embassy of the Russian Federation and a number of foreign delegates from these countries who had come to participate in the deliberations of this conference from far and wide attended the inauguration of the conference.

Her Excellency, Ms Irina A. Orolbaeva, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic, while deliberating on the Great Silk Road and its importance to the new world, said that this International Conference is a next step in continuation of the efforts to make Central Asia and South Asia as regions of peace, stability and development through revival of the history and traditions of the Great Silk Road which did not only promote commodity exchange but also cultural and religious ideas. His Excellency, Mr. Parakhat H. Durdyev, Ambassador of Turkmenistan to India, in his address said that it is known from history that the scientific and cultural relations between Turkmen and Indian people began from the ancient times. Both found ways to various regions through the Silk Road in the past and made weighty contributions to the advancement of civilization. His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Hajiyev, Ambassador, the Republic of Azerbaijan in India, talked about the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between Azerbaijan and India. His Excellency Mr. Shaida M. Abdali, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, said that Afghanistan is serving as a centre of international cooperation, bringing together almost all countries of the Silk Road to further the noble cause of peace in our country.

Prof. Purushottam Agarwal, Member UPSC and our old colleague from JNU, delivered the guest lecture.

More than 150 delegates from different parts of India and abroad attended the Conference. Around 100 of papers were received, out of which 74 papers could be presented during the packed three-day period with hectic and intense academic and intellectual activity.

Prof. Sattar Mazhitov, Prof, Laura Yerekesheva, Prof. Mara Gubaidullina, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Dr. Khadicha M. Shambetilieva, Dr. G. Ibraimova, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Prof. Uladzimir G. Budai, Turkey, Prof. Alexander Bondarev, Moscow, Russia and many more from different countries chaired and read the papers on Silk Road.
Mr. Prakash Jha, the famous Hindi film Director also participated in the conference, and conducted a two-hour session, where he discussed about the films directed by him. Like a real intellectual he patiently answered interesting questions on his films and the present scenario of the cinema world.

The backbone of this International Conference were Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), Ministry of Culture, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and our Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who were the sponsors of the Conference.

A Cultural programme based on the Theme – "Wedding Traditions of Silk Road Countries" was prepared by the students of the Centre of Russian Studies, Centre of German Studies, SLL&CS, JNU and Delhi University.

The Valedictory Function was addressed by Mr. Ashok Sajjanhar, former Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia. The guests of honour were H.E. Ms. Irina A. Orolbaeva, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic, and H.E Mr. Ibrahim Hajiyev, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan. The Report on the International Conference was read by Mr. Ajoy Karnati, Assistant Professor, CRS, SLL&CS.

In his speech, Mr. Sajjanhar said that the hard work put in by all of the organisers, as well as the sleepless nights that were spent in putting together the Programme were fully rewarded by the success of the Conference. All the participants enjoyed themselves immensely and also benefited enormously by listening to the presentations. Presentation of Cultural Programme every evening added a new flavour to the academic proceedings of the conference. Results of the Conference have been truly impressive.

Prof. Sudha Pai, Rector, JNU distributed the Certificates to the participants of the Conference and the students-recipients of the Pande Gold Medal.

With participation of many eminent scholars and dignitaries, the event was a grand success.

Kiran Singh Verma
Centre of Russian Studies, SLL&CS

Two days conference, School of Physical Sciences

The School of Physical Sciences and the Special Centre for Nanoscience of Jawaharlal Nehru University organized a symposium during 7-8 March, 2013. The theme of the symposium was Nanoscience & Condensed Matter Interface. The meeting started with inaugural remarks by the Dean of the School. Many distinguished researchers from reputed National Institutes and Universities delivered invited talks sharing their research works on cutting edge areas in this subject. The topics included in this meeting were Graphene, Nanostructures and assemblies, Self assembly systems in condensed matter, Polymer nanocomposites, Supramolecular systems and Molecular magnetism. Apart from the faculty members and research scholars of JNU, research students from different institutes situated at Delhi and outside participated. The significant part of this meeting was Poster Exhibition where the young research scholars of School presented their works on diverse topics. Though all the presented works were very interesting and stimulating, three students were given the "Best Poster Presentation Award". On a concluding note, the meeting provided a platform to discuss the very topical and challenging issues in condensed matter physics vis a vis nanoscience, and the outcome had been very successful.

H. B. Bohidar, Professor
Special Center for Nanosciences and
Ashim Pramanik and Tanuja Mohanty
School of Physical Sciences

8th Kabir Memorial Lecture

The Kabir Memorial Lecture was delivered by eminent historian Prof. Harbans Mukhia, former Rector of JNU, on Thursday, 28 March 2013 in the School of the Arts and Aesthetics Auditorium of the University. The subject of his lecture was Subjective Modernities.

The lecture commenced with the welcome address given by Prof. Rambux, chairperson of the Centre for Indian Languages. Welcoming the speaker Prof. Mukhia, the Chief Guest Prof. Sadiqur-Rahman Kidwai, former Dean of SLL&CS, and the chair of the lecture Prof. M.A. Islahi, the Dean of SLL&CS, he elaborated on the significance of the naming of the lecture after the great saint poet Kabir, who is also hailed as a true embodiment of communal and linguistic unity. He introduced Prof. Mukhia and very briefly talked of the scholars, including Prof. Irfan Habib, who had delivered the Kabir memorial lecture on earlier occasions.

Prof. Mukhia's lecture may be summarized as follows. The notion of modernity, which was unquestionable until very recently, is under interrogation today from numerous angles throughout the world. Its early use to demarcate the present from the past gave way to a value load of reason opposed to any sort of religion or religiosity. With positivism's privileging of science and technology, modernity evolved into an Abstraction, the approximation to which attested the degree of modernity of every society, institution, or even individual. Its paradigm was one of specific western 'rationality' and capitalist economy. In one powerful version, the approximation to this Abstraction in Asia, Africa and Latin America was mediated through colonialism and its discourse; in another, even as colonialism was contested, modernity was demonstrated through parallel and comparable indigenous developments even prior to the colonial intervention, thus valorizing the Abstraction. The movement of our ideas remains encircled by it. The circle is now being broken by postulates of alternative modernities, multiple modernities, Eurasian modernity, shared modernities, lost modernities and several other versions. The dual value-loaded hiatus that Post-Enlightenment had posited between the then present and the past in Europe and between Europe and the rest of the world is today under severe strain. It seems arguable that European modernity was not quite the exception either with reference to its own 'medieval' past or to the rest of the world: It is possible to envisage it as a continuous process and one that has evolved through multifaceted global interaction – economic, technological, cultural, ideational, or aesthetic. True, the pace of change since the 17th or especially the 18th century dictated by the idea of progress lends modernity special characteristics. Yet, both the idea of progress and the pace of change are conceivably cumulative effects of global historical evolution and have universal, not Euro-specific validity.

So, in his opinion, perhaps it is time to abandon 'ancient, medieval, modern' and conceptualise value-neutral categories: early, recent, contemporary or simple demarcation by centuries.

The presidential address was delivered by Prof. Islahi. He also thanked the chairperson of the Centre and the convener of the lecture for inviting him to such an important lecture and presiding over it.

Prof. Mazhar Mehdi Hussain thanked the speaker, the chief guest, the Dean of the school, the audience and the National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language, Ministry of Human Resources Development, sponsor of the memorial lecture, for making it a success.

Mazhar Mehdi Hussain
Professor and Convener
Centre for Indian Languages, SLL&CS

"Indo-Swiss Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology Level – 1"

Himalaya is the highest mountain range and most populated mountain system in the world. It has the largest bodies of ice and snow outside the polar caps. It is now considered as the third pole of the world. Recognizing the importance of scientific and technological inputs required for sustaining the fragile Himalayan Ecosystem, Department of Science and Technology (DST), has taken various measures to fulfil various gaps especially in the field of glaciology.

For the first time in the history of Indian glaciology, a joint training programme on capacity building on Himalayan glaciology of different levels was implemented under the Climate Change Programme (CCP), NMSHE mission, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP) of Climate Change and Development (CCD), Embassy of Switzerland. Capacity building training programme will directly contribute towards the fulfilment of one of the key objectives of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE). Establishment of network between various organization and institutions and enhancing human capacities for monitoring glaciers in the Indian Himalayas is an important component of NMSHE. NMSHE is one of the eight missions of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

The Indo-Swiss Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology Level-1 was organised by JNU from 1 April to 27 April, 2013 under Prof. AL. Ramanathan, School of Environmental Sciences. The venue of the training programme was Convention Centre, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Course coordinators of the training program were Prof. AL. Ramanathan (SES, JNU), Dr Markus Stoffel, University of Geneva and Dr Anil Kulkarni, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore. The course curriculum was structured by the programme coordinators Dr. Markus Stoffel and Dr. Anil Kulkarni, and JNU and approved by DST and CCD. A list of resource persons was developed according to the course curriculum and with the availability of expertises in India and Switzerland. The aim of Level-1 training programme was to provide basic knowledge in the field of glaciology and its importance and to orient young researchers in the field of glaciology as their main career. The lectures delivered covered the basic to advanced / contemporary aspects of glacier research with thrust on the Himalayan glaciers, and its essential components like atmospheric process, climatic phenomenon, precipitation, glacial dynamics, mass balance of glaciers, avalanches and snow melt and runoff in the Indian Himalayas.

In response to the announcement of the progrmme a total of 61 applications were received by JNU for Level-1 training. 30 candidates were shortlisted based on approved criteria developed jointly between Indian and Swiss course coordinators for Level-1 programme. Ph. D. students and researchers who are working in glaciology and related areas with glacier experiences were given preference. Also it was ensured that candidates from various parts of India were represented with focus on Himalayan zone in the final selection of candidates. Out of 30 shortlisted participants 29 attended the training program. One candidate could not attend due to some personal reasons. Students from different institutions and organisations attended the level-1 training programme.

On 1 April 2013, registration of the candidates was done at Convention Centre, followed by ice breaking session by co-ordinators Dr. Anil Kulkarni and Prof. A. L. Ramanathan. Expectation mapping was also conducted by IHCAP members. Participants were asked to write what they are expecting from the Level-1 training program; later coordinators happily announced that 80-85% of the expectations were going to be covered during the training program.

Opening ceremony of Indo-Swiss Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology Level-1 was held on 2 April 2013. It was inaugurated by various eminent resource persons, H.E. Dr. Linus von Castelmur, Ambassador of Switzerland to India, Dr. T. Ramasamy, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi, Prof. Sudha Pai, Rector of JNU, Prof. Arun K. Attri, Dean of SES, (JNU), Dr. Sanjay K. Mishra, Advisor / Scientist -G DST, Dr Nisha Mendiratta (in charge of this program, DST), organising committee members, coordinators and many other experts in the field of glaciology and the related areas. Switzerland is the first country with which India has collaborated for the institutional and human capacity building programme on glaciology.

H.E. Dr. Linus von Castelmur, Ambassador of Switzerland to India, in his speech said that "We are pleased to be the first country with whom India has jointly developed this collaboration. This programme provides an opportunity for strengthening capacities of Indian researchers and institutions involved in the research field of climate change and glaciology." He also mentioned that it was an opportunity to seek and identify areas of mutual interest for research.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. T. Ramasamy, Secretary, (DST), emphasised on the need to build human capacities for monitoring glaciers in the Indian Himalayas. He said "the Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology directly contributes towards the fulfilment of one of the main objectives of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE)."

Speaking at the inaugural session, Prof. Sudha Pai, Rector, JNU, said "this programme hosted by JNU is recognition of expertise and capabilities developed in the university over the last two decades". She acknowledged "DST and SDC for identifying JNU as the host institution for training young researchers in the field of glaciology through this extremely important capacity building programme".

During the session a brief introduction to Climate Change Programme, National Mission for sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE), and an overview on Capacity Building Programme and warm wishes were given by Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, UGC, Dr. Sanjay Mishra, DST, and Dr. Nisha Mendiratta, DST. It was announced that capacity building training programme was going to be held for next two years and those who were not selected for this program and for the next level in this training program will get priority in further training programs. Dr. Nisha Mendiratta also elaborated the procedure of selection and course content for different levels.

The four week training program was quite hectic and knowledgeable for the participants; the lectures were delivered by the best experts available from both the countries in various fields. It was six days per week training program. The timetable was from morning 9 a.m to evening 5 p.m. Lectures were delivered in the morning sessions by different resource persons with different backgrounds and in the afternoon various exercises (hands on training through on line data analysis and accessing global data bases for analysis and interpretations) were given. Participants were asked to send their respective exercises to the concerned resource person and a copy to Prof. AL. Ramanathan for their evaluation for Level-2.

There were a total of more than 26 resource persons during the training program who gave lectures and exercises. Among them 6 were from Switzerland and rest were from different institutions and organisation working on Glaciology in India.

On 26 April 2013 a written test was conducted based on whatever the resource persons has taught during the training program. The test was part of the evaluation process. Based on assessment of assignments, test, paper presentations and class performance a subset of these students were selected for Level-2 training programme. All the participants successfully completed the training program except one who left just before 5 days of completion due to some personal problem. Feedback from the participants was also considered, some suggestions were received based on evaluation processes but overall all the participants were contented with the Level-1 training program. Level-1 capacity building programme on Himalayan Glaciology concluded with distribution of certificate of participation to 28 participants. Around 10-15 participants will advance to Level-2 programme. Level-2 training programme will consist of classroom teaching and field exercises at a glacier. Chhota Shigri / Dokriani glacier in HP/ UK has been selected for field exercises, which will tentatively start from September / October 2013. It is being planned to conduct further advanced trainings for selected candidates from Level-2 programme in Alps and labs in Switzerland.

On 23 April 2013, a brainstorming session to explore potential areas for collaboration between India and Switzerland in the field of glaciology and related areas was also held by IHCAP at Convention Centre, JNU as a side event.

Indo–Swiss Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology Level-1 was concluded with a sight seeing tour of Delhi on 27 April, 2013.

AL. Ramanathan,
School of Environmental Sciences

Fourth Prof P N Srivastava Endowment Lecture on "Learning from the Minds on the Margin"

The School of Social Sciences, JNU organized the Fourth Professor P.N. Srivastava Endowment Lecture on 11 April, 2013 at the Auditorium of JNU Convention Centre. The Lecture titled "Learning from the Minds on the Margin: Towards a New Social Contract for Responsible Science" was delivered by Professor Anil K. Gupta. This lecture is organized annually by the university to pay tribute to Dr. P. N. Srivastava, former Professor of JNU and renowned scientist. Professor Mridula Mukherjee, Dean of SSS, in her welcome address welcomed Prof Anil K. Gupta. She then formally introduced the speaker.

Dr. Anil Kumar Gupta is a Professor at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad, and Founder of the acclaimed Honey Bee Network. He founded the Honey Bee Network in 1986-87 "to promote a fair and responsible knowledge ecosystem", where innovators can benefit by sharing their ideas. In the 1990s, he set up the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) and Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN). All three entities are partners of the National Innovation Foundation (NIF India), an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology. Prof Gupta has received a large number of awards and honours, including Padma Shri Award in 2004.

Prof Gupta started his lecture by introducing the experience of Honey Bee Network (HBN) in forging the linkages between formal and informal sector, particularly of science and technology but also other sectors. HBN has been engaged both with creative communities and also scientific institutions to build a bridge between formal and informal sector. He mentioned that formal sector had scientists who not only learnt from common people, but also acknowledged it. There lies his interest in documenting efforts of grassroots innovators. Most public institutions in India appreciate examples of creativity and innovation in informal sector. But, they don't feel empowered to take up projects interfacing informal sector for validation or value addition to grassroots innovations. Later, National Innovation Foundation took this as their mandate and supports in bridging exercises.

HBN was one of first few open innovation platforms started 25 years ago. Now, even large corporations as well as small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) are taking interests in open innovation platforms for technology development and technical collaboration. Grassroots innovators have built up local open innovation platforms with strong community bondage and ownership. They develop frugal technologies for addressing their day-to-day practical problems. It helps them in contextualize their innovations in their local settings and knowledge reproduction from traditional knowledge. Grassroots innovation also helps in socio-economic empowerment of local communities.

In this connection, he mentioned how SRISTI synergises efforts of engineering students in addressing unmet technological needs of informal sector as well as MSMEs (micro, small and medium scale enterprises) through online platform Techpedia.in. Techpedia has archived about 1.5 lakh technological solutions from more than 500 institutions to problems faced by the informal sector and MSMEs.

In his lecture, he narrated anecdotes related to grassroots innovations he encountered in his journey of discovering them across the country. He concluded this lecture with four recommendations, which are: (a) every public institutions of R&D must allocate at least 10% resources for validating and value adding people's knowledge; (b) when validation is pursued, the conditions followed by the people must be carefully stimulated and abstracted, lest a good idea is invalidated because of bad protocol; (c) the criteria of evaluation should also be carefully developed keeping in mind that people make tradeoffs between accuracy, affordability and urgency all the time, and (d) enriching people's own capability to solve problems using modern scientific tools and techniques is necessary to democratise science, technology and innovations.

After his lecture, he interacted with JNU students in Q&A session. Prof S.K. Sopory, Vice-Chancellor of JNU, chaired this lecture session. The lecture concluded with vote of thanks given by Dr. Madhav Govind of Centre for Studies in Science Policy, SSS.

Anup Kumar Das
Documentation Officer
Centre for Studies in Science Policy, SSS

JNU Seminar Series

The School of Physical Sciences, JNU organized the seventh lecture in the "JNU Seminar Series – Towards Inter-disciplinarily" on 11 April, 2013 at the Seminar Hall of School of Physical Sciences. The Lecture titled "Indian Science at the Crossroads: A Scientist's Perspective of an Emerging India" was delivered by Professor Siva Umapathy of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Professor Prasenjit Sen, Dean of School of Physical Sciences, JNU chaired the session. Prof Sen formally introduced the speaker. Dr. Umapathy is a J C Bose Fellow Professor at the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry in Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and also holds an Honorary Professor position at the Department of Chemistry, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. He is well known for his research work in the inter-disciplinary area of applications of laser spectroscopy to physics and medicine. He has received number of awards including the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in 2004.

In this talk Prof. Umapathy introduced how India's rapid growth in the post-liberalisation era of the economy has led to a considerable increase in funding for research and education, as well as, to the creation of a number of new educational institutions. But it remains a huge challenge to provide these institutions with the kind of modern high-tech world class infrastructure that would serve the educational and research needs of our population and sustain a vibrant research effort that is of international standards. He mentioned that 45% of Indian population is under the age of 25 years and 70% of them live in rural areas with limited access to technology. In this context, Prof. Umapathy gave example of challenges faced by new IITs and IISERs, particularly while they have shortage of qualitative faculty members at par existing IITs and IISc. Many globally well-placed researchers have initially shown interests in taking teaching positions in new IITs, IISERs and similar institutions, but disillusioned by other factors including academic autonomy and considerable higher teaching load.

In his talk he touched upon scientific and sociological practices in Indian research in the context of a world that is highly competitive and rapidly changing. He also covered issues including the training of students with differing socio-economic backgrounds, diversity in the quality and quantity of manpower and faculty, nationalism and self-reliance in relation to international competitiveness, leadership and management, innovation, and science policy. He also addressed some "out-of-the box" solutions to meet the aspirations of a nation attempting to shed its colonial mindset.

The Lecture concluded with Chair's remarks and a vibrant interaction with the audience.

Earlier, in that week Professor Siva Umapathy delivered another lecture in JNU on "Challenges in Experimental Scientific Research" on 10 April 2013 at CSSS, SSS.

Anup Kumar Das
Documentation Officer
Centre for Studies in Science Policy, SSS

CMS Lecture Series

The Centre for Media Studies (School of Social Sciences) hosted the first session of the CMS Lecture Series on 25 April 2013. The Series, intended to be a discursive engagement with the complex intersections between the media, the construction of our everyday social conduct, and the survival of our democratic institutions, was inaugurated with a talk by B. G. Verghese, eminent journalist and visiting professor, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi. Professor Verghese's lecture was a measured, incisive detailing of the Indian media's transition to a new status: `the first estate'. While this transition has endowed the media with immense power to influence the trajectory of governance and public opinion, Professor Verghese pointed out that it must be understood by media practioners as also invested with huge responsibility. The session wound up with a vibrant question and answers round, and ended with a vote of thanks delivered by the chair, JNU Rector Professor Sudha Pai.

Deepak Kumar
Centre for Media Studies


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