How to Travel in a Digital Age : Geek Globalisms and the Digital Divide by Kavita Philip

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Off Campus

Community Room
West Hollywood Public Library
625 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood

WHAP! Lecture Series

During the digital boom of the 1990s and before the downturn of the early twenty-first-century, a set of internet representations appeared to recycle tropes of the sexualized, primitive other. These narratives seemed anachronistic, renewing what historian Peter Sigal has called the ‘ethnopornographic.’ They appeared out of time, seeming to rehearse an outdated technological fantasy, returning, with a twist, to tropes of woman-as-savage, savage-as-nature, nature-as-chaos, science-as-truth, and truth-as-justification for the globalizing mission. At the same time, debates within feminist geography and postcolonial theory were also offering a new fantasy of the resisting-yet-contradictory consumer. This was also the decade in which Frederic Jameson, in his celebrated analysis of postmodernism as “the cultural logic of late capitalism,” outlined formal techniques that postmodernism deployed. 1991 was the year in which India accepted the IMF’s terms for the “liberalization” of its economy. The decade of the 1990s would bring Indian data-entry workers to the global stage through the Y2K crisis. The next millennium would bring radical changes in the position of India and China in the world economy, celebrated as the Asian “tiger” and “dragon.” As decolonization in the mid-twentieth century had stalled colonial ethnographic tropology, so the economic reversals of the early twenty-first century seemed suddenly to render the ethno-pornography of the 1990s obsolete. This talk sketches a political /psychic economy of informational capitalism, seeking to understand the shifting ontologies implicit in the gendered, sexualized, and racialized landscapes of the “age of information” and the rise of “emerging” economies.

Kavita Philip is Associate Professor of History and affiliate faculty in Informatics at UCI. She has worked in environmental studies, colonial history, postcolonial studies, history of technology, political economy, and science fiction studies. She is the author of Civilizing Natures (2003 and 2004), and co-editor of four volumes, curating interdisciplinary work in radical history, political science, art, activism, gender, and public policy.  She has a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell, an M.S. in Physics from the University of Iowa, and a B.Sc. in Physics (with Chemistry and Mathematics minors) from the University of Madras, India.