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Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Media and social change
  • Family and gender relationships in South Asia
  • Gender media studies
  • Islamic personal law in India

Tea for interreligious harmony? Advertising as a new field of experimentation with visual secularity in India

The role of social or commercial advertising as a central, ubiquitous visual medium which operates across various platforms, multiple channels and interconnected spaces – television, social media, newspapers or public billboards in urban spaces, among others – has rarely been investigated in the study of secularity in India. My interest in the role of advertising is based on the following observation: Precisely at a time when political secularism is seen to be in a deep crisis in India, a number of multinational corporations, national companies and advertising agencies seem determined to experiment with new ways of – literally – ‘seeing’, and also of ‘feeling’, secularity in India.

Rather than contributing to a ‘rehabilitation’ of political secularism, these companies seem to be primarily concerned with the strengthening or revitalisation of what Sudipta Kaviraj calls ethical secularity. In the Indian context, Kaviraj argues, ethical secularity (he also uses the term ‘ethical secularism’ in the same article) refers to “a structure of beliefs which involved the derivation of the fundamental basis of moral conduct from human sources, not from the divine” (Kaviraj 2013). In contrast to this, the term political secularism refers to the principles through which political authorities sought to achieve mutual accommodation between potentially hostile religious communities. This definition seems to correspond to the second form or guiding idea of secularity as described by Wohlrab-Sahr and Burchardt (2012) which is “secularity for the sake of balancing/pacifying religious diversity”.

In my investigation, I focus on a small, but highly visible body of recently circulated cause marketing campaigns. I argue that these campaigns introduce or mediate an understanding of secularity as care for and connectedness with adherents of other religions. It is worth noting that some of the campaigns employ the communicative space of (Hindu) religious festivals, such as Holi or Ganesh Chaturthi. Whereas previously, religious festivals were primarily portrayed as family events in product or brand advertising in India, these campaigns now shift the focus onto the social interaction between individual members of different religious communities.

Joseph Kupfer (2012) argues that while everyday spheres of intimacy – family and friendship – are the locus classicus for discussions of care, an adequate ethics of care must go beyond family and friendship to investigate the place of the individual in the larger community. Kupfer contends that participation in school, neighbourhood, and town is essential to personal growth. The cause marketing campaigns I will look at aim to engage the viewers in an ongoing relationship with the imagined religious ‘other’ that is informed by the basic features of care ethics: attentiveness, responsiveness and a sympathetic imagination or ability to ‘feel’ with the other person.


  • Kaviraj, Sudipta. “Languages of Secularity.” Economic and Political Weekly 48, no. 50 (2013): 93–102.
  • Kupfer, Joseph H. Feminist Ethics in Film: Reconfiguring Care through Cinema. Bristol/Chicago: intellect, 2012.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika and Marian Burchardt. “Multiple Secularities: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Secular Modernities.” Comparative Sociology 11, no. 6 (2012): 875–909.


2017 - present
​2016 - 2017

Deputy Professor of Visual and Media Anthropology, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg University (Germany) 

​2009 - 2016

Junior professor for Mediality and Intermediality in Asian and African Societies, Department of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin 

​2014 - 2015

Visiting Research Fellow, Department of History, University of Delhi (India) 


Visiting Research Fellow, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg


Research Assistant, Institute of Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) 

​2006 - 2009

Lecturer, Department of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin


Ph.D. (Dr. phil.), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Relevant Publications

  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina and Carola Richter, eds. New Media Configurations and Socio-Cultural Dynamics in Asia and the Arab World. Baden-Baden: Nomos/Bloomsbury, 2015.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Intersecting Dynamics: Representational Activism and New Mobilities among ‘Muslim Women’ in India,” in Contesting Feminisms: Gender and Islam in Asia. Edited by Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, 135–58. New York: State University of New York Press, 2015.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Filming Urban Spaces and Entangled (Im)Mobilities: Experimental Documentaries by and about Young 'Muslim Women' in Delhi,” in Studying Youth, Media and Gender in Post-Liberalisation India: Focus on and beyond the 'Delhi Gang Rape'. Edited by Nadja-Christina Schneider and Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, 167–90. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2015.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina and Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, eds. Studying Youth, Media and Gender in Post-Liberalization India: Focus on Sexual Violence, New (Im)Mobilities and Evolving Gender Identities. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2014.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Islam und Gender in Indien. Perspektiven der Geschlechtergerechtigkeit in der Minderheitensituation,“ in Geschlechtergerechtigkeit durch Demokratisierung? Transformationen und Restaurationen von Genderverhältnissen in der islamischen Welt. Edited by Susanne Schröter, 297–318. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina, ed. Islam, Youth and Gender in India and Pakistan: Current Research Perspectives. Special Issue of ASIEN, 126 (2013).
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. „Being Young and a ‘Muslim Woman’ in Post-Liberalization India: Reflexive Documentary Films as Media Spaces for New Conversations.” ASIEN, 126 (2013): 85–103.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Neue Mobilitäten muslimischer Frauen in Indien: (Trans-)lokale Dynamiken des ‚islamischen Feminismus‘.“ SüdasienChronik / South Asia Chronicle, 1 (2011): 111–34.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina and Bettina Gräf, eds. Social Dynamics 2.0: Researching Change in Times of Media Convergence: Case Studies from the Middle East and Asia. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2011.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. ”Islamic Feminism and Muslim Women’s Rights Activism in India: From Transnational Discourse to Local Movement – or Vice Versa?” Journal of International Women’s Studies. 11/1–2 (2010): 56–71.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “‘Konversion‘ zum Islam versus ‚Neubestätigung‘ des hinduistischen Glaubens: Weshalb Religionsübertritte in Indien so unterschiedlich wahrgenommen werden.“ Südasien, 2 (2007): 22–5.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Islamic Personal Law in India: Political Mobilisations along Religious Lines?,” - Dialogue with the Islamic World, 5 January, 2007,    
  • Framke, Maria, Nadja-Christina Schneider, and Carola Sprung, eds. “Islam in Südasien,", 17 November, 2006,
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. „Die Debatte über das islamische Personenstandsrecht in Indien,“, 17 November, 2006,
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. Zur Darstellung von 'Kultur' und 'kultureller Differenz' im indischen Mediensystem: Die indische Presse und die Repräsentation des Islams im Rahmen der Zivilrechtsdebatte, 1985-87 und 2003. Berlin: Logos, 2005.