Category: General

Being Heard as Experimental

Hip Hop is a musical genre and cultural movement that has been the birthplace of ingenious creativity and novel methods of music making that incorporate new and old technologies (Driscoll 2009). These technical innovations can be seen in the redeployment (Fouché 2006, p. 642) of the turntable through moving the record backwards and forwards to generate new sonic textures and generate hypnotic repetition through breakbeats. The MIDI Production Center (MPC) by Akai and Roger Linn—a MIDI sequencer, sampler, and drum machine that was initially designed to give musicians and producers an easier way to create more natural sounding drums in their recorded music—was almost immediately taken up by Black Hip Hop producers in the United States and used to sample longer pieces of audio from a variety of sources and then re- sequence them to create new melodies and drum rhythms. However, the histories of marginalized people’s exploration of new sounds and technologies for the sake of creative music making seems to largely diverge from the histories of what is traditionally labeled experimental music within the western musical canon. In this post, I want to explore histories of experimental music and contrast it with histories of Hip Hop to better understand who is allowed to be labeled as experimenting within music and how the answers to these questions exist along particular lines of race, space, and time. (read more...)

The “Doing” of Collaborative Ethnography

There is no simple way to tell the story of the recent history of Sainte-Thérèse Island, known as IST (Île-Sainte-Thérèse) by members of the Montreal Waterways research collective, a group based out of the Concordia University Ethnography Lab. Once you start, there is little certainty as to where the story may lead, as its tellings often open different and overlapping pathways for understanding the landscape. Therefore when it came down to the question of how to tell the story of an island—one with a diversity of characters, histories, and happenings—Montreal Waterways made the decision to create a multi-authored compilation of ethnographic texts in the form of a book, entitled An Island is More Than a Park and available online—as part of its research outcomes. The title of the book came from a direct quote made by one of the island’s residents during an interview conducted at a rather difficult time. In the months prior, the community of IST had been preparing to legally defend themselves against a government which had labelled them as squatters, and which was committed to expropriating the seasonal inhabitants to make way for an eco-park. In the time Montreal Waterways spent engaging with the island’s residents and its landscape, it became evident that an island is more than a park: an island is actually a composite of a great number of things that hold meanings that sometimes conflict or contradict each other, especially when so many actors are invested in a version of the island’s story. There was understandably some apprehension on behalf of IST residents, who were suspicious as to why a group of anthropology students were interested in learning about the park, their expropriation, and a project involving collaborative ethnographic research. (read more...)

Premediations of Carcerality: Notes on Targeted Surveillance in Postcolonial India

This post explores the surveillance of letters across two time-periods in postcolonial India: mail letter interception immediately following India’s independence in 1947, and the contemporary use of letters as incriminating evidence against human rights activists in the ongoing Bhima Koregaon-16 (BK-16) case. The BK-16 is a group of activists including academics, journalists, lawyers, artists, poets, and dissenters who were imprisoned through a series of coordinated arrests by the police in different parts of India June 2018 onwards. They were arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), India’s anti-terror law that empowers the government to arrest citizens without any judicial process. Many of them are Dalits, representing India’s most marginalized caste. The BK-16 advocate for the human rights of India’s poorest and most oppressed communities, and overtly oppose the ideology of Hindutva, a Hindu supremacist nationalism espoused by the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) since 2014. (read more...)

On Observing: Reflections on UN Climate Policy Negotiations from Paris to the Present

Observe (verb) notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant. watch (someone or something) carefully and attentively. take note of or detect (something) in the course of a scientific study. make a remark. fulfill or comply with (a social, legal, ethical, or religious obligation). maintain (silence) in compliance with a rule or custom, or temporarily as a mark of respect. perform or take part in (a rite or ceremony). celebrate or acknowledge (an anniversary). Source: Oxford Languages (Accessed: March 3, 2024) Nearly every year since 1994, representatives from 198 nations have gathered at the annual meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), to discuss how to address the immense and intractable challenge of anthropogenic climate change. Alongside these national representatives, thousands of participants from environmental and social non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, local governments, Indigenous nations, research institutions, and trade organizations attentively watch the course of the negotiations. These attendees are officially known as “Observers.” I first joined these meetings as an Observer in 2014 at COP 20 in Lima, Peru. The following year in Paris, France, I participated in the sprawling COP 21 negotiations where the Paris Agreement was adopted by participating countries. Then, eight years later, I returned for COP 28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Given this long gap of time, I was able to consider: What has changed from COP 21 to COP 28? How do evolving global conditions influence the process? And what does the act of observing allow within multilateral spaces and the policy-making process? (read more...)

Cultures of Trust in Computing and Beyond

What does it mean to trust? In this post I explore how there are specific ways of producing trust in computer science education. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted for my PhD in an undergraduate computer science program in Singapore, where I examined the “making” of computer scientists—how students are shaped as socio-technical persons through computer science education. During my fieldwork, I conducted participant observation in eight undergraduate computer science courses across all years (first to fourth) with a focus on required core courses for the computer science program, which is what I draw primarily on for this post. I also conducted interviews with students, professors, and administrators; policy and curriculum analysis; and participant observation in the department, university, and tech community more generally. I also myself studied computer science as an undergraduate student, which led to my interest in this topic. (read more...)

Gazing into the Eyes of Elephants: Unsettling Recognition in Multispecies Relations

“Do the elephants recognize you?” I am asked some version of this question by most people who find out my work has involved multiyear relations with elephants in Thailand. The short answer is yes, but not in the ways that most people think when they ask about recognition. I know that the elephants recognize me because they ignore me, because my presence in their space does not perturb them; the absence of a reaction, what might be interpreted as indifference, is how I know that I am familiar to them. People find this response disappointing. The ways that elephants express recognition do not seem to be legible to people as recognition. I think what people expect, or perhaps hope to hear, is a picture of recognition that aligns more with certain anthropocentric and often commodified forms of human-elephant interaction. (read more...)

Waves of Well-being: Surfing at the Shaka Surf Club in Kodi Bengre, India

Surfing’s roots are in long-standing cultures in the Pacific Islands, South America, and West Africa. After wave-riding was banned by European Missionaries who deemed it leisurely and “savage,” surfing’s contemporary “revitalisation” took place in Hawaii where it became a notable phenomenon of the 20th century. Nowadays, surfing represents a subculture around an “alternative” sport, a lifestyle, and an art with profound personal and lifestyle implications (Ford & Brown, 2006). Likewise, in India, particularly in the fishing village Kodi Bengre, surfing means much more than simply sliding along a wave. This qualitative study captures how the Shaka Surf Club shapes perceptions of well-being and mental health in surfers and surrounding community members in Kodi Bengre. (read more...)

The Brilliant Future of AI

On a hot August afternoon in 2018, I attended a public lecture on AI and the future of work, broadly defined. Back then, I was a student in Brazil conducting my fieldwork for my master’s thesis in anthropology, and interested in understanding artificial intelligence (AI) representations in Brazilian media. As such, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork at events and talks in Computer Science and other departments at my university (Universidade Federal de Goiás, UFG) and carried out archival research of media stories about AI written in Portuguese. In this post, I retell a field story to reflect on what I noticed has changed when it comes to discussions around AI and the future of work in popular media since then.  (read more...)