LUKE HAMANN AND CHRISTINE MOUTON
The modern human experience is increasingly defined by the intersectionality of societal structures governing our interactions through various mediums. Feminist theory opens up a realm of discourse that is vital to our ability to both survive and thrive in a world plagued by prejudice, misinformation and communication overload. Jasbir Puar’s essay “‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.’ Intersectionality, Assemblage and Affective Politics” eyes these fundamental feminist theories and aims to critique and clarify them by showing potential pitfalls that are associated. Such assessment is crucial to improving the lexicon of feminist theory and can help to alleviate alienation that occurs when groups (many of which are affected by intersectional forces) showing varying levels of acceptance towards these ideologies. Students in this FemTech course at UCSB used these critiques and ideas furthered by Puar to tackle a myriad of topics facing a technologically driven world that is still searching for fairness, equality and representation within society. These principles are often difficult to discuss because of their relatively new inclusion into academia and how the terminology can, initially, seem vague and without a concrete definition. However, the more that one grapples with the ideas the more clear they become and their value emerges. Intersectionality is something that affects all of us, regardless of background or current position. Understanding such a phenomenon can be crucial in understanding how some people are affected more than others (which is the root of much of the injustice that affects our world). Assemblage works both with intersectionality and away from it in the way that it can be applied to almost anything that requires elements from separate entities synergizing for a common goal. In the feminist technologies world, this takes a digital turn and helps to create syllabi, resources and programs that can be built collaboratively for an overarching purpose. Our feminist technologies course inspired the following articles by way of introducing us to many cutting edge implementations of these principles that are already existing and making positive change in the world. Feminism, racial injustice and cyborg theory are all central points covered by four groups that worked together to craft entries into the academic dialogue that pushes understanding forward.
“Intersectionality as assemblage” put the principles of feminism under the microscope to determine how Puar’s view of assemblage within intersectionality differs from conventional understandings and can be instrumental in altering the general assumptions about feminism. Serious issues like that of sexual assault or LGBTQ rights and representation can be tackled by the creation of assemblages that utilize intersectionality principles within their creation. The digital mapping of abuse is a specific instance that was discussed in the course that showcases the potential that collaborative, feminist platforms can have on issues facing our society. Digital mappings, in general, are invaluable resources that can give perspective in a world that suffers from tunnel vision (whether it be from the social media age and it’s frantic information turnover rates or news media that bounces from headline to headline) and can be a tangible tool that can live on past its the creation and continue to evolve as a resource. The cohesion of many different formats, mediums and contributors can allow for a digital space to transform into a learning environment that is valuable due to its ability to inspire the users via the many ways in which one can use the resources available. The idea of collaboration is another fundamental aspect of these mappings that serves as a powerful tool. The ability to create a platform that can be added to or clarified by a crowdsourcing method means that the validity of each platform can continue to be analyzed and deemed fair or unfair. In class, the HarrassMap was an example of such a platform. Beginning with focusing on domestic abuse in Egypt, the site expanded to include the entire world solely because of international cooperation and participation. In such an instance, a digital entity continued to exist independently of its initial creation. Of course, no crowdsourced entity can be completely rid of bias or misinformation, but assemblages like these are intersectionally accessible and a great example of feminist theory merging with technology to further the fight for justice.
“Cyborgs and Other Companionate Assemblages” eyes the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s surrounding discourse that nonsensically victimized groups based on prejudice and misinformation. The systems of language that were the source of this victimization show how power structures can influence language, understanding and acceptance of issues. In this instance, the nomenclature of the pandemic showed stark differences between scientific communities, government bodies and the general consensus. In the United States, people of Chinese descent felt an unfair shift in reputation as the President targeted their group in particular as, perhaps, the group to blame. Written by foreign students in our class, this article is authored from a unique perspective that is particularly sympathetic to the foreign experience in the United States and offers a look into this issue that can only be told by a specific demographic. The issue of quarantine and its unequal distribution of economic consequences is another key issue that can be understood by a feminist technology perspective. The pandemic has shown how different populations (this is specifically regarding the United States) face different levels of risk in terms of government assistance and economic instability. The African American death toll showcased an uneven distribution of where care was given to impoverished demographics and furthered the conversation about equal care under the eyes of the law. This created the perfect combination of grievances and events that can be argued to have projected the Black Lives Matter movement extensively. The people were angry and there was so much going on all at once that the people had finally had enough. More importantly, the people recognized that these issues weren’t entirely new they were just given different circumstances that caused people to protest more energetically. They took on a much more intersectional approach which is the basis for some of the articles on this site.
In “Intersectionality and Its Discontents” students take on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Movement of 2020 with an analytical lens that critiques traditional intersectionality. Puar discusses the potential disadvantages of the original viewpoint of what intersectionality is and how it is applied. This article will move forward with that and provide concrete examples of how we can see these theories in action with what is happening in the world today. It will also provide ways in which we can think about these events that branch away from these “discontents” that Puar is addressing in his original article “‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.’ Intersectionality, Assemblage and Affective Politics”. By reevaluating our thought process about these current events, we are able to step towards being more well-rounded and knowledgeable about every aspect that takes part in these social issues. For example, in one of the parts, the author urges readers to think of these issues as something that has been around for a long time and that is embedded in a system that negatively affects African-Americans. With a strong call to actions, the authors are also able to provide ways readers can practice being better at intersectional analysis. They use an example from Malini Schueller about how “othering” is harmful to these movements. It is because it focuses on differences that innately separates people instead of bringing them together. This concept of “othering” is not only applicable to the BLM Movement it can also be used for the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic also pulls back this curtain on certain issues that should be of concern each and everyday like the accessible healthcare for all. It is the concept of understanding that these waves of attention on certain issues have foundations before COVID-19 broke out. It’s just that people are much more concerned about it now because of this virus when they should have been just as concerned about it before all this came down. Understanding that these events and the questions they raise or bring back to light have roots in other areas of society and the world and that must be known. When people achieve this mindset, they can better navigate and dissect pieces of information funneling into society through for-profit news corporations and other large media corporations.
“Discipline and Control” dives into analyzing the power structures that inhabit today’s society in relation to the government. In doing this, the students are understanding the implications of the actions of the government and its citizens. Discussing the relationship between discipline and control would help us better understand these current events that we are living through today. It provides a new perspective that can help citizens more effectively combat the system. They reference Michel Foucault’s studies in these relations because as a theorist, his ideas on this subject have been extensive and well-renowned. The articles talk about the restriction of individuality which is a key concept in Foucault’s studies. Governments use this in different, more subtle ways that are being revealed by the public through discourse. This fluctuates power relations today. In addition, the article talks about Puar’s references to Norma Alacron’s work to bring intersectionality into the conversation and where it is situated in discipline and control. The articles then go through a series of examples of how discipline is being enforced during these times of global and national crises. For COVID-19, it was the lockdowns to motivate people to stay at home and for the black lives matter movement it was a series of curfew and strict military presence to control the public. Once pointed out, it is difficult to ignore the functions of these reactions in our society. We are able to understand what Puar is talking about and why he references certain people’s work. Bringing all of this together, the authors point out how these reactions disproportionately affect certain minorities in various ways. Whether it be through lack of medical assistance or basic human decency, systems of discipline and control cause imbalances in society. Despite all this, the people still continue to come together in support of various causes starting up to address these concerns. Resources, organizations, non-profits have all come together to help the damage created by these systems in response to the pandemic or the reaction of a people who have had enough of the system itself. Intersectional feminists are utilizing their knowledge on intersectionality and assemblage for the greater good. It is with that power that people can better understand what they are dealing with.
Before going further through our website, we hope that readers have gotten the chance to read Puar’s original essay “‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.’ Intersectionality, Assemblage and Affective Politics” to better comprehend what is being said. The essay is linked to the menu of this website. The people are very used to these subjects in their day to day life. Whether it be in the news or on social media, they hear updates all the time. But this online journal is meant to not educate the public on what is happening, but to encourage them to think about them in a new way. It is important to be open-minded in learning from new perspectives. These articles, with Puar’s text as a guideline, will speak of these current events with lenses specific to their assigned section of the original text. We hope that these readings will present new ideas and information for viewers to reflect on their own experiences and thought processes. These articles have the ability to encourage further feminist thinking that will evidently be beneficial to the individual. Feminist technology finds its way through every aspect of our lives and in this case we are focusing it in on these specific topics. We hope to continue the conversation about what is happening in our society by proposing new ways to talk about them. It’s one thing to hear about the same thing over and over again, but to get readers to start thinking differently is beginning a new wave in an ocean of change.