Arun John, 1986 - 2024

Arun John, 1986 - 2024

IAMCR is deeply saddened by the loss of Arun John on February 5, 2024. Arun was a dedicated and valued member of IAMCR, serving as Vice-chair of the Participatory Communication Research Section. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

Below is a tribute from his doctoral advisor and colleague, Vinod Pavarala, and his colleagues from the Participatory Communication Research Section Head.

With much sadness, we announce the untimely demise of Arun John, doctoral research scholar at the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, and an active member and Vice-Chair of the Participatory Communication Research Section of IAMCR, on February 5, 2024. At the time of his passing at the age of 37, Arun was a faculty member at the Annapurna College of Film and Media in Hyderabad, India.

Arun was my student and doctoral advisee, someone I have known since 2007 when he joined the Master’s programme in Communication in our department. He completed his M.A. with us at the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad in 2009 and was one of our early mentees at the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, established at the University in 2011. As a Master’s student, he had interned for a unique project, the ICTs Solution Exchange at the UN office in New Delhi and, subsequently, worked there for a year as a researcher after his graduation. He went on to take up a corporate communication job for a year and taught at a well-known undergraduate college in Hyderabad for a couple of years. Armed with a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) of the University Grants Commission of India, granted through a competitive national examination, he came back to our department for a Ph.D. in 2013, seeking to understand the varying notions of ‘community’ in community radio initiatives in India. He did excellent, immersive fieldwork at Community Radio Mattoli 90.4 FM in Wayanad, Kerala and Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz in Bangalore, and returned with fascinating insights. At the UNESCO Chair, he was one of our earliest research assistants and was a big source of support for our activities. As he got into teaching jobs, most recently at Annapurna, and struggled with various other pressures, his writing, unfortunately, took a backseat. He had five more months to go before the permitted time for submission lapsed at the University.

Arun was a tall, hulk of a figure, all hair and beard, one couldn't miss him when he walked into a room. I have always been quite fond of him and remember some wonderful time spent together. He had a good, decade long association with IAMCR. When we organised the conference in Hyderabad in 2014, Arun was very much a part of the organising team, marshalling student resources and assisting with the holding of a major pre-conference on community communication and alternative media. In 2016 when we organised a two-week capacity-building workshop in Hyderabad on C4D for about 50 UNICEF staff from around the world, Arun participated actively as a field facilitator, reinforcing his interest and commitment to communication for social change. Later that year, he got a travel grant to attend a PhD Winter School on Participation and Communication conducted by Nico Carpentier at Jinan University, Guangzhou campus, China. We went together to Cartagena, Colombia in 2017 to attend the IAMCR conference. We had a fabulous visit to community media projects along the Colombian Caribbean in the Montes de Maria region, led by Clemencia Rodriguez. I remember one day when we had to spend a night as house guests with an elderly widow in a village, with neither of us speaking or understanding Spanish and she with no English, and Arun trying valiantly to ensure that I have some veggies on my plate for dinner and breakfast. He always cherished that trip and often referred to it as a transformative experience. Arun, subsequently, became the Vice-Chair of the IAMCR PCR Section and served it diligently, especially during the difficult pandemic years.

His colleagues from the PCR Section Head, Ana, Doris, Piyu and Ana Lúcia, fondly remember him:


Arun joined the PCR section in 2020 as Vice-Chair, bringing very positive energy to the team. He had a special ability to ask the right, the good questions. Questions that would entice us to follow up and go further. He did a lot of backstage work, preparing conferences and events and it is a shock that he will not be at our 54th meeting.

He was currently working on a participatory video project, teaching and collaborating  with Annapurna College of Film and Media and a PhD student of the Department of Communication at Hyderabad University.

Arun was one of us. He will be missed and remembered.

His was a precious life, cruelly cut short. He was a bright, warm and gentle person, always ready to help others in need of personal or professional support. Our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Payal Ganguly, father, John Mary, mother, Prema John, and brother, Kishan John, as well as to all his close friends, colleagues and teachers. He was much loved and will be missed. RIP Arun John!

Vinod Pavarala