Category: General

Multiple Modes of Being Human

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) In the last couple of years, I have been toying around with the ideas of “modes of humanism,” “inventing new modes of being human,” and modes of existence, such as data swarms and the pre-, post-, and transhuman. However, I was never really able to wrap my head around the question, what it really means when Bergson, Simondon, and others speak about the possibilities of “new modes of being human.” Modes of being human signify a multiplicity of possible forms of being human. These forms differ historically and culturally. (read more...)

Thinking with a Database

In 2019, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority notified television channels that they were not allowed to host the Pakistani Senator Hafiz Hamdullah on air. The reason: Hamdullah had been declared a “confirmed alien,” and his identity card had been “digitally impounded” by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). NADRA began operations in 2000 by launching a biometric (fingerprints, facial, and iris recognition) computerized national identity card (CNIC). At NADRA, custom-made software integrates and verifies data from individuals as well as kin units, determining who is and is not a Pakistani citizen. (read more...)

Angelology and Technoscience

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) The study of angels, angelology, is seldomly taken seriously. Instead, it is seen as the topic of ridicule, exemplifying the irrelevancy and unworldliness of some academic questions: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Why would angels have knees? Do angels have sexes? Further, angels often reference disembodiment and neutrality, ideas any decent posthuman scholar seems to abhor. Nevertheless, I would argue that angels are a fruitful way to critically assess our posthuman condition. Angels embody a number of valued characteristics of our posthuman selves, but also a number of transformations in how science is currently practiced– what I would like to call technoscience. Technoscience refers then to a range of new disciplines, such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology, robotics, or data science. These are new disciplines where classic distinctions between science and technology, nature and artifact, are disappearing. Posthuman thought and technoscience have remarkable similarities, but, in contrast to posthumanism, our attitude towards technoscience is ambivalent. Do we really want that kind of science for our future? Or, differently put, do we really want to become angels? (read more...)

Girls, Gadgets, and Gatekeepers: What is Ethical Feminist Fieldwork When Working with Children?

There is no Institutional Review Board (IRB) or equivalent body in India. The ethics of research are left to the purview of researchers, their supervisors, and departments. Therefore, as an international student, I first encountered the IRB when planning my MA project at UC Irvine, where I investigated the intersectional effects of gender and class within the family, and how they shape differential access to mobile phones for adolescents in urban India. (read more...)

Cargo Ships and Comrades: On the Occasion of the Beached Ever Given

In 2018, we took a cargo ship from Barcelona to New York City and made a short film called Slop Chest [1] about the blurry distinction between work and leisure when you live where you work—and can’t leave. Here, we describe some of our experiences on board, drawing resonances between the labor practices in international shipping and in Amazon’s warehouses. Writing while the cargo ship Ever Given is blocking all trade through the Suez Canal and while Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama, are preparing to count votes in favor of unionization, we speculate about how these two events resonate. What are contours of this conjuncture? There are three separate crews on board our ship: the officers, the engineers, and the deck crew who are responsible for maintaining the ship and keeping watch. The captain is Polish and the officers are similarly white and eastern European. The engineers are mostly the (read more...)

Entrepreneurship and Technologies

Everyone is an entrepreneur – a new ethos is sweeping through our economic world. While the promises of ‘being your own boss’ and ‘deciding about your working hours’ are surely appealing to many, what is at times forgotten are the effects such an ethos has on the structures of work and labour, on relationships both economic and more widely. The flipside of this updated version of the American dream and the (false) promise of meritocracy have always been self-responsibilisation and dangers of reproducing structural inequality. (read more...)

Screenshots of the Field: Viral Loads and the Contagious Potentials of Digital Ethnography

Over the course of the past six months, I have been actively doing fieldwork on HIV care in Turkey on Zoom. Believe it or not, for an anxious person like myself, who to this date did not approach or talk to anyone in the field without being completely soaked in sweat, I have actually been enjoying doing research online. I recognize the “anxieties, challenges, concerns, dilemmas, doubts, problems, tensions, and troubles” that arise from digital fieldwork, particularly given that the quality of being virtual does not guarantee exemption from gendered, ableist, and racialized violence. However, these issues do not exhaust the methodological possibilities and relational potentials of online research, which I address in this blog post. (read more...)

Building Collaborative Habits, Establishing Sustaining Relations: What is the Role of a Scholarly Society Today?

For decades, the in-person academic conference has been a core aspect of the scholarly society’s mandate and programming. But the disruption COVID-19 has brought to in-person travel has amplified the need to grapple with critiques that were already growing about the format of the annual academic conference. Anand Pandian (2018), for one, has noted the incredible carbon footprints produced by such gatherings of scholars and academics, as well as questions of equitable access considering the cost and barriers to travel which often restrict already precarious and marginalized scholars from attending. In addition to rethinking fieldwork in COVID-19 times (see the Platypus Blog’s series on fieldwork amid the pandemic and the Patchwork Ethnography manifesto as examples), we call for deep reflection on the role of a scholarly society, as sociotechnical infrastructure, in supporting diverse collaborative relations. COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities that were already at play in who can attend the in-person annual academic conference. In paying attention to the scholarly society as sociotechnical infrastructure, we believe there is an opportunity to contribute to thinking about what a radical break with the ways that academic social networks have thus far been established might look like, as well as contribute to new anthropological theory-making. (read more...)