Category: General

Zombie Knowledge: Toward a Deeper Conversation between Black Studies and Multispecies Anthropology

Monsters, the nightmarish figures we conjure in the dark, reflect our own culturally and politically specific anxieties. They are a dark mirror: a terrifying rendering of a social fact exaggerated, turned inside out, or perhaps a manifestation of some truth we find unthinkable except in fantasy. (read more...)

Science and Justice: “Impartial” Water Monitoring and Resistance to the Escobal Mine in Guatemala

Editor’s note: This is the third post in an ongoing series called “The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies.” A water monitoring process conducted around a controversial mine site in Guatemala highlighted the central, but also contested and indeterminate, role of science in environmental struggles. Groups with competing aims, and distinct conceptions of science and politics produce (or influence the production of) distinct forms and interpretations of science to ground their claims and shape the outcome of environmental conflicts. (read more...)

Managing Refugee Mobilities: Global Flows of Migration Deterrence Technologies

In 2000, a United Nations Resolution designated June 20th World Refugee Day. In the week leading up to this day, countries throughout the world pay homage to the ideals of the refugee rights movement through public festivals celebrating their migrant communities’ cultures, social media campaigns on refugee resilience, and declarations of their commitment to protect those seeking asylum. Historically, nation-states have employed such public messages to emphasize their identities as benevolent, humanitarian actors.  However, what these proclamations elide is not only the violent ways that individual nations reject asylum seekers[1], but the collective ways that countries work together to inhibit their mobilities. Both the technologies of detection and deterrence as well as anti-refugee rhetoric, while based on insular ideas of nationhood and ‘who belongs,’ are also increasingly dependent on collaborations and partnerships with other nation-states. In attempts to control refugee movement, multiple nation states are both entangled and willingly involved in a global effort to contain, reroute, and eventually immobilize asylum seekers from the global South seeking protection in liberal democratic states. While there has always been an international refugee regime since the inception of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it is worth paying attention to the new ways in which nation states are learning from and relying upon each other to govern where refugees can and cannot go. (read more...)

‘Dynamic Totalities’: Data Surveillance as a Paradigm

In the zeitgeist of academia, surveillance has clearly an ominous connotation. However, is surveillance not fundamentally a way of looking? More formally, a way of looking at totalities. Whatever is studied, observed, or measured is part of a definitive totality. A virus is part of a sample. Families are part of a community. Workers are part of the factory. A scientist is part of a laboratory. One reason we are cautious about speaking of totalities is because we are scared of being reductive. But what if we could dynamically measure parameters defining the totalities which concern us. What if we could define our totalities at will and observe phenomena within its boundaries, track phenomena flowing out of it, or ingressing it? If this sounds like an uncanny  ‘intelligent’ camera or rather a poetic job re-description of the individual in the CCTV room, then it is meant to be so. Data surveillance can offer perhaps a fresh paradigm for observation and analysis irrespective of the actual use of computers that enable it. (read more...)

MacHack VI: Computer chess and the roots of AI

On January 21, 1967, a mild winter Saturday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a couple of computer researchers from the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) flagged down a taxi near Tech Square. Loading a bulky, 60-pound teletype called a 35 KSR (“Keyboard Send/Receive”) into the trunk, they set off for downtown Boston, across the river. A short while later, the cab pulled up at the Young Men’s Christian Union (YMCU), and the researchers wrestled the machine up the stairs to the second floor, where the Boylston Chess Club was setting up for a weekend tournament. (read more...)

On the social nature of toilet paper

You would be forgiven for thinking that the first thing bought in a global crisis would be tinned, dried, and frozen foods; clean water; and medicines—things that enable the survival of you and your kin. Yet, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia hit 100 on March 10, 2020, it was the toilet paper aisles of supermarkets that were empty. Through what became the subject of memes depicting Australians sheltering from the ensuing pandemic wrapped only in toilet paper, and of men wearing lavish adornments of toilet paper rolls, daily bodily habits had hit center stage. (read more...)

A coincidence is a strange type of fact

At the top of Václavksé náměstí, the central artery of Prague, in a solemnly gray but geometrically dynamic Socialist Realist hotel that today is jammed between currency exchange windows and fast-food restaurants, up one floor from the busy street and the purple velvet lobby, a young laborer is trying to make a fidget spinner move with just his mind. He looks at it intensely, with sadness and urgency in his face. He looks at it like this for about thirty seconds, then releases his gaze, relaxes, blinks purposefully, restoring his energy, and resumes his effort. Sometimes he twitches but the fidget spinner never spins. And sometimes during his breaks he apologizes to his audience – me and, also, the coordinators of Paranormální výzva, a collective of Czechs who are testing claims of paranormal ability. (read more...)

The Paradox of Autonomy and Care for Mothers of Adults with Disabilities in Brazil

Since the early 2000s, Brazil has experienced a significant change concerning the rights of people with disabilities in the country. Based on the struggles of the Brazilian Disability Rights Movements, in 2009 the country promulgated the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) and in 2015 enacted the Brazilian Inclusion Law, also known as the Statute of People with Disabilities. The promotion of autonomy and the social participation of people with disabilities is at the core of these legislations. While these measures are not always accompanied by policies that can actually guarantee their implementation, they still impact people with disabilities in the way they foster such discourses around autonomy and independence. (read more...)