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Katibs and computers: innovation and ideology in the Urdu newspaper revival
January 15, 2016 – 03:44 pm
Review in Urdu and Hindi

In 1993, the prognosis for Urdu newspapers in north India was dismal. The readership was aging and dwindling as the new generation learned Hindi in Devanagiri script. Urdu calligraphers (katibs) were not passing their skills on to a new generation and writers skilled in Urdu were becoming increasingly hard to find. Fifteen years later, Delhi is home to a prosperous and expanding Urdu press. The number of newspapers had tripled, circulations were often higher than they had been in the past, profits were up and the atmosphere at Delhi's major Urdu newspapers was upbeat. A large part of the explanation lies in the intersection of language ideologies and new writing technologies. On the one hand, Urdu indexes crucial politically urgent populations, leading to a renewed interest in it from many sectors. On the other hand, new more flexible technologies allowed the retiring to be replaced by computer typesetting that strongly resembles north Indian calligraphic styles and new software allows an entire daily newspaper to be assembled and sent to press using a single laptop. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in 1993 and 2008 at some of New Delhi's Urdu dailies and interviews with several editors, this article describes the mutual influences of Urdu language ideologies about Muslim identity and technological innovation in the revival of the Urdu daily.

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Popular Q&A
Why do people use a computer to create a newspaper?

Because it is much easier and they can insert photos with ease.

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