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Based on his work on healthcare among indigenous communities, sex workers, migrant workers, farmers, and communities living in extreme poverty, Prof. Dutta has developed an approach called the culture-centered approach that outlines culturally-based participatory strategies of radical democracy for addressing unequal healthpolicies. Based on academic-activist collaborations, the culture-centered approach uses fieldwork, resistive strategies for performance and dialogue-based reflexive participation to create entry points for listening to the voices of communities at the global margins. At the core of his research agenda is the activist emphasis on provincializing Eurocentric knowledge structures, and de-centering hegemonic knowledge constructions through subaltern participation. He has received over $4 million in funding to work on culture-centered projects of health communication, social change, and health advocacy. Recently, he completed a $1.5 million grant funded by the Agency for HealthCare Research & Quality (AHRQ) to develop a culturally-centered health communication project on heart disease among African American communities in the Lake and Marion counties of Indiana. This community-grounded project interrogating the unhealthy structures that constrain the health and wellbeing of African American neighborhoods in the US became the basis for multiple organic projects rooted in the aspirations in the community for health and wellbeing. At NUS, he received over $2 million in funding to run culture-centered projects of health across Asia, including projects on food insecurity in West Bengal, poverty and health in Singapore, health among migrant workers in low skilled sectors, health of transgender sexworkers, health among Malays, and cardiovascular health and marginalization. At Massey, he looks forward to building the work of CARE in the areas of indigenous health, health and migration, and poverty.
The social impact in Mohan Dutta's work bridges activist interventions and academic knowledge production, delineating the tensions, divergences and convergences when academics, activists, and communities come together in co-creating transformative practices. He is interested in theorizing the nature of productive practices of academic performance situated at the intersections of subaltern politics, activist commitments, and academic research. Professor Dutta explores these tensions in academic-activist-community collaborations through his own experiments with collaboration and solidarity.
In addition to teaching, writing and conducting fieldwork in collaboration with activist groups, Prof. Dutta enjoys spending leisure time with his wife, children Shloke, Trisha, Soham, nieces and nephews, parents and siblings, and an extended family of performers and activists; stimulating conversations with his advisees, usually over meals; organizing opportunities in radical democracy with grassroots groups; and participating in creative production, script writing, and direction for 360 degree campaigns. In his most recent performance work, he has served as the visiting artistic director for Rittwick, a grassroots group in West Bengal, India working on performance for social change. He has also directed the "Singaporeans Left Behind" "Voices of Hunger" and "Respect our Rights" campaigns and documentary films. Prof. Dutta is the winner of the 2016 International Communication Association (ICA) Applied/Public Policy Communication Research Award, and the 2018 Outstanding Health Communication Scholar Award. He serves on the Advisory Panel of the World Health Organization (WHO) Cultural Contexts of Health (CCH) group.
Mohan J Dutta is Dean's Chair Professor of Communication. He is the Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centered, community-based projects of social change, advocacy, and activism that articulate health as a human right. Mohan Dutta's research examines the role of advocacy and activism in challenging marginalizing structures, the relationship between poverty and health, political economy of global health policies, the mobilization of cultural tropes for the justification of neo-colonial health development projects, and the ways in which participatory culture-centered processes and strategies of radical democracy serve as axes of global social change.
Research on the culture-centered approach (CCA) to health communication explores the ways in which cultural meanings are co-constructed by participants in their interactions with the structures that surround their lives. It is through these co-constructions that subaltern participants discuss possibilities of resisting a healthcare system that continues to locate them at the peripheries of the mainstream, and co-create narratives of social change that transform the silences carried out by mainstream structures of knowledge production. Agency and context are two key threads that have flown through the research conducted in this area, utilizing combinations of ethnography, survey-based methodology and performance to engage with the symbolic and material spaces of social change across the globe. Scholarship focusing on the culture-centered approach has been published in Communication Theory, Health Communication, Human Communication Research, Health Education and Behavior, and Qualitative Health Research, in addition to being published as chapters in several books. The key concepts of the culture-centered approach are highlighted in the book “Communicating health: A culture-centered approach” published by Polity Press.
Formulated under the framework of the culture-centered approach, Professor Dutta’s research program explores the interactions among structure, culture and agency in the co-creation of transformative practices for challenging marginalizing communication practices in healthcare settings. The goals of this program of research are to understand (a) the location of communication within the complex interplay of structure and culture, (b) the ways in which individual and collective agencies are enacted within and in resistance to structural constraints, and (c) the interactions of human agency and communicative processes in bringing about social change and structural transformation. These research interests suggest theoretical insights regarding the ways in which communication structures, practices, and messages participate in the marginalization of certain sectors of the population, and draw attention to the processes through which these silencing structures are resisted by those that are typically disenfranchised. Ultimately, these theoretical entry points provide pragmatic guidelines for engaging with problems of marginalization and disenfranchisement, fostering spaces for listening to those voices that have historically been rendered silent by the institutional practices of policymakers, interventionists, and program evaluators. The emphasis is on co-creating theoretically grounded spaces of change by working dialogically with subaltern communities through participatory communication strategies.
Professor Dutta has published the book Communicating social change: Structure, culture, agency” in collaboration with Taylor & Francis, and more recently "Voices of Resistance" published by Purdue University Press. He was awarded the Lewis Donohew Outstanding Health Communication Scholar Award in recognition of this work. Also at Purdue, he was awarded the prestigious University Scholar Award for his research excellence. His most recent research involves a $1.5 million project funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) to develop culturally-centered guides on heart disease for African Americans in the Lake & Marion counties of Indiana, and a $1.9 million Center on the Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) (www.care-cca.com) funded by the National University of Singapore. Writing availaible on the following blog: http://culture-centered.blogspot.com.
21st Century Citizenship, Design – for Commerce, Community and Culture, Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems
Field of research codes
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies (200201): Communication and Media Studies (200100): Communication Studies (200101): Cultural Studies (200200): Cultural Theory (200204):
Health Promotion (111712):
International and Development Communication (200103): Languages, Communication And Culture (200000):
Maori Health (111713): Medical And Health Sciences (110000):
Postcolonial Studies (200211):
Public Health and Health Services (111700)
An award winning teacher at the graduate and undergraduate levels, Professor Dutta firmly believes that excellent teaching goes hand-in-hand with excellent research. His teaching is founded on the principles of dialogue, commitment, and intellectual growth. Philosophically, he notes that teachers are guides who catalyze our growth as human beings, and therefore grounds his pedagogy in an emphasis on growth, awareness, and self-reflection. Drawing upon the writings of Gayatri Spivak, he emphasizes the vital role of education is interrogating our privileges that both limit the possibilities that we can co-create with others and simultaneously open up new possibilities of transformations.
Professor Dutta’s modules embody the integration of theory and practice in the context of contemporary global problems. The emphasis on Critical, Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies theories is weaved through the courses taught by Dutta, situated amidst the articulation of entry points for structural transformations.
Therefore, there is a continuous interrelationship between theory and practice, with the goal of building higher order theory that is instructive in the co-creation of participatory spaces for listening to subaltern voices and for de-centering the West-centric hegemony of communication knowledge. There is a strong element of deconstruction that is built into Professor Dutta’s courses, coupled with an emphasis on reflexive and ethnographic methodologies for carving out spaces of solidarity with subaltern communities. The theoretical engagement with critical theory and the Subaltern Studies project creates an entry point for advocacy, politics of social change, and culture-centered praxis.
It is with this emphasis on advocacy and politics of change that Professor Dutta occasionally teaches service learning courses that engage undergraduate and graduate students in addressing the structures of inequity under neoliberalism. Such courses result in projects of academic-community solidarity in addressing key policy and program issues faced by disenfranchised communities.
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