Category: General

​​Traveling but Not Arriving: Hieroglyphics of Caste in Computing

When I landed in Bangalore in early 2020, it was a long-awaited moment of my grad school journey. I had finally defended my proposal and was set to transition into fieldwork in the next couple of months. In my preparation for fieldwork, I had read many ethnographies, most of which had an arrival scene. It seemed that the first couple of weeks of entering a field site presented a crucial lever of juxtaposition for ethnographic writing that lends itself to evocative descriptions of the setting. The “arrival trope” has been long challenged in anthropology through accounts that complicate the narrative of an ethnographer entering an unperturbed native setting (Pratt 1986). Pratt also complicates the artificial distinction between personal narrative and “objective” description, particularly as they are blurred in moments of transition or arrival in ethnographies. For me, the trope of arrival was exciting despite all its problems because it finally gave me an opportunity to re-enter a world that I was familiar with and describe it on my own terms. I had worked as a software engineer before and now wanted to study gender and caste relations in the computing industry. Dalits, formerly seen as “untouchable” under the caste system, and other lower caste people, have been subjects of upper castes doing research for a very long time. I was looking forward to subverting the arrival trope as a Dalit woman doing ethnography where upper castes were my research subjects. I wanted to do this through participant observation in the computing industry that is highly dominated by upper castes. (read more...)

Netlicks and Chill: Digitalization and Food Politics in Taste the TV (TTTV) Technology

Digital technologies have increasingly penetrated aspects of daily routines and practices — this has only been exacerbated by the conditions put forth by the COVID-19 pandemic. Technologies mediate experiences, thereby generating new forms of engagement with the world (Ihde, 1990). One arena of such digitalization and increased technological entanglement is food; over the last decades, the processes of procuring, growing, preparing, and eating foodstuffs have been inundated with new technologies (Lewis, 2018). From cooking robots and “smart” kitchen appliances to virtual online communities devoted to sharing food-related content and discussing food politics, interactions with food have transformed considerably. These transformations warrant additional inquiries into how food and surrounding processes of tasting and eating may manifest differently in accordance with such technologically-intertwined conditions. (read more...)

From Amusement to Conscientization: The Purpose of Media Literacy in the Age of Misinformation

In one of my first classes in my Undergraduate program in Media Studies, our Professor displayed a prominent newspaper. The masthead and the front page borders were red in color as opposed to the usual black. Then I noticed that the main headline on the front page was on a revocation of a ban on soft drinks giants, Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Pointing out the promotional strategy used by corporates in the newspaper, our Professor explained that behind every media content figures a series of intended and unintended agendas. (read more...)

Platypus in 2022

As the new year and the new semester have been off to (hopefully) a good start, Platypus is coming back to work too. Building on a decade of work (this year Platypus turns 10!), in 2022, we will continue our commitment to providing a platform for diverse voices and critical scholarship at the intersection of anthropology and STS. We have a new team, new projects, and a great deal of enthusiasm, as always. We can’t wait to offer our readers more experimental and multimodal content (powered by Platypus’s biggest team of talented multimodal contributing editors to date!), increase the linguistic accessibility of Platypus’s materials (possible with the support of invaluable multilingual volunteers!), and widen the spectrum of genres and means of academic expression (supported by our brilliant web producer and contributing editors). Stay tuned! (read more...)

Automating the Beast: Modern Police Power and the (Digi)Dog

As an undergraduate, I worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. For one of those jobs, I was a kennel attendant at a veterinary clinic and  earned $7.75 an hour. I was responsible for caring for dogs that were kept in the boarding facility while their (usually affluent) owners were out of town on business or vacation. I kept track of every dog’s diet, administered medications, and took them out for bathroom breaks. It was, without a doubt, the most thankless and exploitative job I’ve ever had. However, I did enjoy the relative solitude and the company of dogs. (read more...)

Confronting Legacies of Toxic Goodness: Speculative Reflections from the 4S 2021 Annual Meeting

This piece was originally posted on November 24, 2021 on the EnviroSociety blog here. To cite, please use the following: Caporusso, Jessica, Duygu Kaşdoğan, and Katie Ulrich. 2021. “Confronting Legacies of Toxic Goodness: Speculative Reflections from the 4S 2021 Annual Meeting.” EnviroSociety Blog, November 24. https://www.envirosociety.org/2021/11/confronting-legacies-of-toxic-goodness-speculative-reflections-from-the-4s-2021-annual-meeting/. Renewable energies, green/blue/bio-economies, waste management systems, as well as sustainable agriculture and aquaculture hold within them the possibility of working towards a “Greater Good,” however, “goodness” is frequently built on toxic colonial and capitalist processes that are rendered invisible through sustainability discourse. How can good practices, relationships, and things be cultivated in an environment where toxicants, toxic politics, and toxic relationalities are constantly reproduced? How do toxic production systems—based on extractivism, colonialism, and plantation capitalism—foment new forms of sustainability that cannot be excised from these deadly foundations? (read more...)

Moving Towards Disability

December 3rd is the UN’s International Day for People with Disabilities. The theme of 2021 was “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”. Of course, 2021 has hardly been a post-COVID world; and the social and health effects of the pandemic continue to place people with disabilities at risk. According to the UN, days of recognition work to celebrate, educate, and ‘mobilize political will’ (https://www.un.org/en/observances). These days of recognition are often for complex problems and, as CASTAC’s 2020 post says, the next question is What Happens The Day After? (Borodina 2020). This year I would like to present a brief case for how and why we, in STS and anthropology, can take up Disability as a lived reality and analytic for our work. I discuss disability as a category and its implications and then present two possible frameworks for its incorporation. (read more...)

Insights on Entrepreneurship and Non-Salaried Labor in Latin America

The problem of unemployment and underemployment in Argentina emerges as acutely pressing and very complex. The National Institute of Statistics and Censuses’ last report on Argentina shows some relevant data. 27.4% of 12 million of the economically active Argentinian population are non-salaried workers. At the same time, the unemployment rate is at 9.6%, and underemployment is at 12.4%. 40.6% of the population lives below the “poverty line” (INDEC, 2021). In 2017-2018, when I conducted field research in Buenos Aires, the Argentinian government had accrued significant debt with the International Monetary Fund, leading to profound economic and social adjustment policies, thus exacerbating these already pressing issues. Understanding the problem of the economic disenfranchisement of the Argentinian population is, however, a challenging task. Take, for example, the internationally acclaimed reports from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, known to reproduce hegemonic neoliberal ideology. Although informal work, self-employment, and unemployment feature (read more...)