CFP—Computing in/from the South

Edited by Sareeta Amrute and Luis Felipe R. Murillo
Afterword by Kavita Philip and Anusuya Sengupta

A Special Section of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience

Computer expertise involves technical competence, infrastructures, interdependent economies, and distinctive political projects. Yet, most often, computing is examined from Silicon Valley outwards. We seek contributions for this peer-reviewed themed section of Catalyst to foreground how a feminist perspective on technoscience can reverse this polarity by asking, what does computing expertise look like from the South? This issue will highlight the contribution that critical feminist approaches can make to the study of computing outside familiar Silicon Valley narratives by foregrounding the entanglements between bodies and materials that at once produce and obscure alternative narratives of computing, politics and expertise. Following on John and Jean’s Comaroff’s Theory from the South (2014), the emergent literature on the "Globalization from below" (Alba, Lins Ribeiro, Matthews, Vega, 2015), and feminist approaches to technoscience (Barad 2007, Haraway 1991, Chun 2013) and the political and economic formations such entanglements may yield (Suchman 2015, Atanasoski and Vora 2015, McGlotten 2016), these articles investigate what it means to re-territorialize and prefigure technopolitical projects outside the main axes of digital work.

Journalistic and other professional accounts of computing have helped to create a reified depiction of an undifferentiated expert community along class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and other socioeconomic dimensions. Ethnographic work has contributed a different picture through the examination of the liberal roots of various Free and Open Source communities (Coleman 2012; Kelty 2008; Leach 2009) and by looking at the labor of "other" experts beyond the metropolitan centers (Philip, Irani, and Dourish 2012; Takhteyev 2012; Chan 2013; Amrute 2016). This special section draws together these emerging conceptualizations to surface technical politics in the Global South, understood as a position in unfolding sociotechnical relationships as much as a geopolitical location.

We welcome articles that investigate computing from the standpoint of the South — that is, from a standpoint that begins with conditions of life outside the presumed model of computing in Silicon Valley and other hegemonic Euro-American centers of IT development— to bring into the purview of sociotechnical analyses computing problems of innovation and extraction, expertise and labor, development and precarity across race, ethnicity, gender, ability, cultural capital, and class.

Contributors might use this opportunity to examine the following:

  • How does shifting the dominant perspectives on computing afford an alternate view of progress and future societies?
  • How might new political forms emerging in the South incorporate both market logics of competitiveness, agility, autonomy, and risk and critical, decolonizing, and, at times, anti-capitalistic dispositions?
  • How do practitioners ‘of the South’ pursue feminist, queer, Black, anti-caste, and anti-class coding projects through and beyond free/open-source projects?
  • How do models of technical expertise become tied to state practices, public policies, debt relationships, and national imaginaries?
  • How does shifting the computing’s location reveal the everyday labor of embodied technical work as it intersects race, gender, class, and ability.
  • How do practices of refusal make their way into computing in the South?

Drawing from varied modes of technical and political engagement, articles may engage phenomena ordinarily broken up into disciplinary topics—ethics, labor, gender, virtuality, data infrastructures, finance, political institutions, space and place-making, globalization, decolonization, ability, embodiment, and so on—and consider how they are held together, bracketed, obscured and transformed in computing practices. For our purposes, we seek to maintain a critical and transdisciplinary approach to the study of computing that can be amplified precisely by starting with an analysis of, and from, the South.

HOW TO CONTRIBUTE

We welcome abstracts (max. 500 words) by June 30th (deadline has been extended). Selected scholars will be asked to submit fully developed papers (max. 8.000 words) for peer-review via the Catalyst online submission portal by September 30th. Selected submissions will be published pending peer review. The volume has no particular disciplinary focus: we welcome contributions from anthropology, history, sociology, computer science (HCI, CSCW), Science and Technology Studies (STS), and related fields. Please see the Catalyst website for suggestions and policies. To send us your contribution, write to unixjazz@riseup.net and amrutes@uw.edu with the following subject line: "Article for Catalyst: Computing in/from the South".