November 8-11, Atlanta, Georgia

Session Title: Visualizing Sovereignty: Anti-Colonial Futures Emerging through Indigenous Political and Cultural Praxis

Paper Title: Designing for Decolonization?: Indigenous Sovereignty, Critical Infrastructure Studies, and the Digital Humanities

Abstract: Though difference and design has been discussed in the Digital Humanities, a rigorous interrogation of either subject as it relates to the settler state is significantly less common within the field. Scholars such as Mishuana Goeman (Tonawanda Band of Seneca) have approached digital mapping projects and considered their anticolonial potential while Safiya Noble has discussed the surveillance risks digital technologies pose to vulnerable and disposable communities. Is a decolonial digital project possible given the long history of digital technologies and its attendant infrastructure created for and deeply indebted to the settler state? How might we begin, then, to design towards decolonization? This project is interested the liberatory, anticolonial, and decolonial potential of design on multiple levels. This work is particularly interested in how we might articulate an anticolonial DH ethic that is deeply committed to the project of decolonization. How might the discourse and our praxis shift if we situate colonialism and settler colonialism as central forces in the construction and maintenance of digital technologies and their material infrastructures? Can we design for decolonization and how might we address incommensurability? This paper argues that design practices at the level of both code and material infrastructure require an urgent engagement with Indigenous articulations of sovereignty and decolonization. The work reviews indigenous feminist articulations of sovereignty and focuses on decolonization as project which advocates for the repatriation of Indigenous land. Included in this work are issues of data sovereignty as represented by the US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network hosted by the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and includes an analysis of the interface and infrastructure of The Southern California Tribal Digital Village.This work suggests that decolonial work in the realm of technology studies, digital humanities, and information studies is possible only through a recognition and commitment to indigenous sovereignty.

Selected Bibliography:

Session abstractEach member in this panel discusses emergent Indigenous visual cultures as they relate to the project of anti-colonialism and decolonization. In “Chahta, Nahullo, Lusa (Choctaw, White and Black): Sovereignty and Racial Formations in Southeastern Oklahoma,” Megan Baker (Choctaw) tracks local productions of race in southeastern Oklahoma and examines how local historical societies employ visual literatures on social media platforms to reconstitute new and decontextualized understandings of “Choctaw”, “black”, and “white” in the present. These “new” locally-produced public histories gain relevance and social currency, despite perhaps being erroneous, and shape how people understand the past and how race came into being. By gleaning a rigorous understanding of how race came to be constituted within the Choctaw Nation, Baker suggests we are better able to inform moves towards decolonization. In “Indigenous Ink: A Visual Intergenerational Transfer of Indigenous Knowledge(s),” Pauline Alvarez (Akimel and Tohono O’odham) contends that Indigenous tattoos operate as a visual method of reclaiming Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies, and cosmologies and as a tool for transferring these knowledge(s) intergenerationally. She employs the term (re)inscription to capture revitalization movements and/or reconfigured forms of Indigenous tattooing. Her work presents the tattoo narratives of Indigenous peoples to demonstrate how Indigenous tattoos are informed by and carry Indigenous knowledge(s). Sarah Montoya’s paper, “Designing for Decolonization?: Indigenous Sovereignty, Critical Infrastructure Studies, and the Digital Humanities,” explores emergent digital technologies and reflects on their anticolonial potential. She argues that design practices at the level of both code and material infrastructure require an urgent engagement with Indigenous articulations of sovereignty and decolonization. Her work reviews feminist articulations of sovereignty and decolonization while considering the protocol established by US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network and the infrastructure and site interface of The Southern California Tribal Digital Village. Laura Terrance’s (Akwesasne Mohawk) work in “Violence & Pleasure: Indigenous Cultural Production and Anti-Colonial Subjectivity” examines representations of violence and retribution in emergent Indigenous films such as Jeff Banaby’s “Rhymes for Young Ghouls,” Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’s “A Red Girl’s Reasoning,” and Tanya Tagaq’s 2016 video, “Retribution.” Terrance argues the auditory and visual experience of these works provide a form of narration embracing a logic of anti-colonial pleasure where the viewer experiences joy at the representation of violence enacted as a response to colonialism. She establishes a connection between anti-colonial violence and pleasure as a means to reevaluate the role violence plays within Indigenous cultural production meant to push its viewers toward anti-colonial ideologies and subjectivities capable of imagining a future beyond settler colonialism. This panel engages key conference themes such as the role of pleasure in states of emergence and emergent digital technologies and their relationship to settler colonialism. Each scholar on the panel is attentive to the conditions of colonialism and settler colonialism while extending beyond our current conditions to claim anticolonial and decolonial futurities.
Session keywords: colonialism, decolonization, indigenous studies


November 8-11, Atlanta, Georgia

Session Title: Rethinking Cyborg Subjectivity, Bio-political Surveillance, and the State

Paper TitleImagining Just Technologies: Indigenous Feminisms and The Cyborg

Abstract: The proliferation of digital technology spurred the well-known articulations of feminist cyborg theory and assemblage theory by Donna Haraway and Jasbir Puar. In spite of their critical interventions, considerations of the relationship between settler colonialism, the surveillance state, and the feminist figure of the cyborg are sparse. This paper draws on the work of Indigenous feminist scholars such as Angela Haas, Kim TallBear, and Audra Simpson to interrogate the dominant historiography of the development of digital technology and to re-imagine a feminist rendering of the cyborg that is attentive to settler colonialism and Indigenous articulations of sovereignty and decolonization.

Session Abstract: This panel revisits the figure of the cyborg as a non-human framework to rethink concepts of embodiment and citizenship in disability studies, postcolonial theory, and Indigenous feminist scholarship. Jasbir Puar suggests Donna Haraway’s construction of the cyborg “inhabits an intersection of body and technology,” even as doing so reifies the stability of the categories. This invites new interventions for thinking the materialization of bodies, including, but not limited to, Puar’s own assemblage theory and biopolitics of debility. Each author on this panel extends these influential articulations of bodies and technologies in order to re-imagine a feminist engagement with the cyborg that is attentive to anti-colonial and decolonial political strategies. While doing so, we critique how bodies are both produced and surveilled by the neoliberal nation-state. We argue that re-imagining the feminist cyborg helps us further understand how technologies of biopower – and biopolitical technologies – create citizen-subjects. In “The Right to Correct: Disability, Prosthetics, and Prison,” Amanda Agpar explores how Jasbir Puar articulates “debility” as a framework to understand how racialized bodies are “worn down” by the biopolitical state, even when doing so fails to result in formal disablement. This paper considers “correction” as a biopolitical mechanism for debilitation and capacity-building. I argue that disability precedes both debility and capacity-building when debilitation is enacted through “correctional” facilities and when capacity is increased through “corrective” technologies like “cyborg” prosthetics and prenatal genetic diagnosis. The state’s “right to correct,” then, may be read as a mode to render all disabled bodies docile within debilitated or capacative statuses. In “Sophia, The Saudi Cyborg, and Disembodied Citizenship,” Dalal Alfares considers how in the two months after Trump’s historic visit to Saudi Arabia in 2017, Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to AI robot Sophia, a China-made, white presenting, non-hijabi woman robot. Angering Saudi women who cannot legally pass on their citizenship to their children, Sophia is quoted saying she wants to “start a family.” This paper studies global production of disembodied cyborg citizenship. Foregrounding gendered, racialized, and embodied processes of the construction of citizenship, I argue Sophia is a figure of coloniality that reproduces dominant Western neoliberal values. How might Sophia’s disembodied, gendered, citizenship challenge state politics in relation to women in the region?


Book Review: Marisa Elena Duarte, Network Sovereignty: Building the Internet Across Indian Country for Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience