Category: General

Coming Soon: The MultiRepository

This post introduces a new collaborative project coming soon to CASTAC: an archive of online platforms that highlights how researchers have utilized different communicative modes and media in qualitative research and creative work, including in journalism and the arts. Think about how you usually encounter a researcher’s findings, a journalist’s account of an important event, or news of an artist’s latest work. In the early 20th century, you would often do so by reading an article in a newspaper, magazine, book, or academic journal. And although these publications might include pictures, graphs, and cartoons, they often emphasized textual ways of conveying information and ideas. Nowadays, an increasing number of researchers, journalists, and artists use multiple media technologies—often digital—to conduct and publicize their work, including text, graphics, and video, among others. Using and combining broader arrays of communication technologies reflects current media practices, but it also gives researchers and other professionals (read more...)

Fetishes or Cyborgs? Religion as technology in the Afro-Atlantic space

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) Afro-Brazilian religions like Candomblé, Umbanda or Xangô, are a cluster of religious practices that originated mostly in West Africa, especially in Yorubaland (Nigeria and Benin), but also in Congo and Angola. Similar to other Afro-diasporic religions (i.e. Vodou in Haity and Santeria in Cuba), Candomblé shares many elements with West African traditional religious practices, like the names and characteristics of their deities (called orixás in Brazilian Portuguese and òrìṣà in Yoruba). These deities embody elements of the natural landscape and atmospheric phenomena that are regarded as personas with their own material and spiritual agency. However, in the whole Afro-Atlantic space the most important common trait is the presence fabricated objects. After a ritual procedure they become the bodies and the material manifestation of the deities themselves. These objects, often referred to as “fetishes,” represent the point of mediation between the material and the spiritual world (Meyer 2012: 15). Indeed, Western conception of materiality is often charged with moral implications, opposed to the pure and transcendent qualities of the spirit (Espírito Santo 2010). Conversely, in Afro-Atlantic religions, objects, elements and atmospheric phenomena are considered to be alive or to have a certain individuality, will or personality, in a way that the scientific Western thought would consider unacceptable. (read more...)

“Legibility by Invitation”: Rohingya Refugees and the Struggle for Political Recognition

Once, in mid-August 2018 in a café tucked away in Klang Valley, Malaysia, Husin, my Rohingya research collaborator, and I sat with Fatimah, a young Rohingya woman. As it was after eight in the evening, I asked if she was worried that she might be detained by the police. “Ah Kak, that’s because the police just want money… if you know how to talk, you don’t have to pay bribe,” Fatimah explained to me in Malay before continuing, “kalau mereka mau tangkap saya, jemputlah [if they/police want to detain me, they are invited to do so]. Saya ada UN card, saya tak takut. [I have the UN card, I am not scared]” (emphasis mine). For Fatimah and other Rohingya refugees I have met in Malaysia, the notion of invite extends to their desire to be seen not just as refugees, but as Rohingya refugees. (read more...)

Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity: Just Buzzwords?

What is the value of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work in the current scientific-technological context? To what extent do collaborative practices present a changing setting for research in Europe but also in other countries? What can we learn from these practices from an anthropological perspective? (read more...)

Naming Species in Colombia’s Biodiverse Landscapes

There is a unique pair of rules on Sattins Island, in Ursula K. Le Guin’s world of Earthsea. This pair is called The Rules of Names and though these rules circulate among the villagers, they are taught to children by the schoolteacher. Names are allocated on Sattins Island based on a person’s physical characteristics or any other visible aspect of their way of life. The local wizard, for instance, is simply called “Mr. Underhill.” An old wizard known for his ineffective spells but still respected by the villagers, he lives in a cave under a hill and doesn’t enjoy visits. Mr. Underhill was in fact listening to the schoolteacher, Palani, when she was teaching the children about the Rules. Noting his presence, Palani found it instructive to call Mr. Underhill and use his case as evidence for the omnipresence of the Rules. (read more...)

Heritage, Memory, and Infrastructure

There are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral. Selma is such a place. In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher – all that history met on this bridge. (President Barack Obama, March 2015) Standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 March to Montgomery, President Obama delivered these words to honor the traumatic history of Bloody Sunday. With “history me[eting] on this bridge,” the bridge stood as a sinister totem to a period of violence that Obama, as the first Black president, had seemingly redeemed, representing the promise of a new American nation that elected what it had once lynched. (read more...)

Regulating Misinformation from the Global South

India is among the top three internet markets internationally with nearly seven hundred million users. What can debates in India about protecting user privacy under right-wing authoritarian political regimes highlight about social media platforms and the spread of misinformation? In February 2021, the Indian Information Technology, Law and Justice Minister announced wide-ranging regulations over social media firms, streaming services, and digital news outlets that require firms to enable traceability of end-to-end encrypted messages, acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful, misleading, and violent content within twenty-four hours, and deliver a complete redressal within fifteen days. Less sensitive cases, such as those engaging explicit sexual content, are required to be removed within twenty-four hours, and companies are required to establish local offices staffed with senior officials to deal with law enforcement and user grievances. These new regulations pose new challenges for technology giants which count India, Asia’s third-largest economy, as a key overseas market. These gains increasingly struggle with Prime Minister Modi’s government as his promise of muscular economic progress increasingly reveals itself to be ambivalent economic nativism. (read more...)

On Drones and Ectoplasms: Breath of Gaia

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) How do concepts such as the human condition, human mind, or collectivity transform in a technologically enmeshed world? And how is our understanding of relationality and agency changed in the context of hybrid tech and built infrastructures, networked systems of control? This ongoing project constitutes an artistic performative reflection on the entanglement between human agency and technological advances. In this project, the artist[1] focuses on aerial multicopter technological systems—also known as drones—emphasizing the idea of interdependency and control within human-nonhuman systems, which are capable of informing the sustainable and collective futures of our world. (read more...)