Francis Cody

Associate Professor, UTM Anthropology; Asian Institute (MCIS)
MCIS 269S (Main), HSC 358
(416) 946-8988 (MCIS); (905) 569-4295 (UTM)



50% Asian Institute

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

Research Keywords: Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology, Critical Social Theory, Activism, Media Studies, Postcolonial State, Public Sphere, Politics

Research Region: India, Tamilnadu


Research Bio

Francis Cody is an Associate Professor in the the Department of Anthropology and the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto.  His research focuses on language and politics in southern India.  He first brought these interests to bear on a study of citizenship, literacy, and social movement politics in rural Tamilnadu. This work was published as a book called The Light of Knowledge (Cornell 2013), winner of the 2014 Edward Sapir Book Prize awarded by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.  Cody’s more recent research traces the emergence of populism and transformations of political publicity through Tamil and English news media. This work explores questions of law, technology, and violence in claims to representing popular sovereignty.  Taken as a whole, his work contributes to the transdisciplinary project of elaborating critical social theories of mass mediation and politics in the postcolonial world.



2023. The News Event: Popular Sovereignty in the Age of Deep Mediatization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

2021. Co-Edited with E. Annamalai, Malarvizhi Jayanth, and Constantine V. Nakassis. Protestant Textuality and the Tamil Modern: Political Oratory and the Social Imaginary in South Asia. By Bernard Bate (posthumous). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

2013. The Light of Knowledge: Literacy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (South Asia edition published in 2013, Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan). Winner of the Edward Sapir Book Prize (Society for Linguistic Anthropology).

Articles and Chapters

2021. with Alejandro Paz. Securitizing Communication: On the Indeterminacy of Participant Roles in Online Journalism. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 31(3): 340-356.

2020. Wave Theory: Cash, Crowds, and Caste in India Elections. American Ethnologist. 47(4): 402-416.

2020. Metamorphoses of Popular Sovereignty: Cinema, Short-Circuits, and Digitalization in Tamil India. Anthropological Quarterly. 93(2): 57-88.

2020. Millennial Turbulence: The Networking of Tamil Media Politics. Television and New Media.special issue: “Millennial India”: Global Digital Politics in Context, edited by Sahana Udupa, Shriram Venkatraman, & Aasim Khan. 21(4): 392-406.

2018. Public Speech as Media Infrastructure for DemocracySeminar, special issue on Dravidianism, edited by Ravi Sriramachandran and Rajan Krishnan. 708: 58-62.

2018. How is Multilingual Freelance Journalism Changing the Media Landscape in India? Economic and Political Weekly, 53(19). (“Engage” online publication)

2016. “The obligation to act: Gender and reciprocity in political mobilization.” Hau: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory. special section: Language and Political Economy Revisited, edited by Andy Graan. 6(3): 179-199.

2015. “Populist Publics: Print Capitalism and Crowd Violence Beyond Liberal Frameworks.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. special issue: Media/Utopia, edited by Arvind Rajagopal and Anupama Rao. 35(1): 50-65.

2011.  “Publics and Politics” Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:37-52.

2011. “Vaacippin Inavaraiviyal: Dinathanthi – Dinamalar Adippadaiyil Amaiyum Uraiyaadal.” (Tamil version of “Daily Wires and Daily Blossoms” translated by N. Manoharan) Maatruveli. 7:41-70.

2011.  “Echoes of the Teashop in a Tamil Newspaper.” Language and Communication, Special Issue: Mediatized Processes in Contemporary Societies, edited by Asif Agha, 31(2):243-254.

2011. “Arivoli’s Humanism: Literacy Activism and the Senses of Enlightenment.” In World without Walls: Being Human, Being Tamil, C. Kanaganayakam, R. Cheran, D. Ambalavanar, eds. Toronto: TSAR. (peer reviewed)

2010. “Linguistic Anthropology at the End of the Naughts: A Review of 2009.” American Anthropologist, 112(2):200-207

2009. “Daily Wires and Daily Blossoms: Cultivating Regimes of Circulation in Tamil India’s Newspaper Revolution,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19(2): 286-309.

2009. “Inscribing Subjects to Citizenship: Petitions, Literacy Activism, and the Performativity of Signature in rural Tamil India.” Cultural Anthropology 24(3): 347-380.

Book Reviews and Commentaries

2018. Review of Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation.By Zeynep Devrim Gürsel , Anthropological Quarterly, 91(2): 811-816.

2018. Review of Making News in Global India: Media, Publics, Politics, by Sahana Udupa. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 52(1) 116-119.

2018. Comment on “The Uncanny Medium: Semiotic Opacity in the Wake of Genocide.” By Kabir Tambar, Current Anthropology, 58(6). 782-783.

2017. Review of Voicing Subjects: Public Intimacy and Mediation in Kathmandu, by Laura Kunreuther. American Ethnologist, 44(1) 164-165.

2014. Comment on “Suspended Kinship and Youth Sociality in Tamil Nadu, India.” by Constantine Nakassis, Current Anthropology, 55(2): 193.

2012. Review of Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic: Democratic Practice in South India, by Bernard Bate, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 22(1):126-127.

2008. Review of Little India: Diaspora, Time and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius, by Patrick Eisenlohr, Language in Society, 37(5): 741-744.

Public Engagement


With No Big Leaders in the Mix, Political Undercurrents Could Play a Large Role in Tamil 16 April 2019.

Elections 2019: In Tamil Nadu’s Sivaganga, Two Unpopular Leaders Fight it 15 April 2019.

Karunanidhi’s Legacy: A Portrait of a Cine Artist as a Radical 9 Aug. 2018

Is there a Future for Film Stars in Tamil Politics? 14 October 2017 

How ‘Amma’ Became the Master of the Politics of 8 Dec. 2016.

Wrought of Iron Until She Was No More: Jayalalithaa’s 7 Dec. 2016. 

Interviews and Podcasts

E. Annamalai, Francis Cody, and Constantine V. Nakassis on their editing of Bernard Bate’s book, Protestant Textuality and the Tamil Modern. CaMP Anthropology, 16 Aug. 2021. 

Political Assembly Podcast, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Aug. 2021.  

Critiques of the Public Sphere and Online Fake News BustingOnline Gods – A Podcast about Digital Cultures in India and Beyond. Aug. 2018. 

Francis Cody on his book, The Light of Knowledge. CaMP Anthropology, 30 Oct. 2017. 

Tamil Newspapers, Teashops, and the Tamil Public SphereThe Indian Medialogue. 6 Dec. 2013.  Part 2, 15 Dec. 2015.

Graduate Students