[iDC] Gender, Race, and Ethnicity

Danny Butt db at dannybutt.net
Tue Apr 18 17:47:13 EDT 2006

On 19/04/2006, at 6:20 AM, Christiane Robbins @ Jetztzeit wrote:

> With that said, my on-going hope is that we can acknowledge our role 
> (s) and move forward on these issues - rather than covert assume  
> that their shelf life convieniently expired in 2001.

Absolutely! Part of the difficulty with these discussions on new  
media lists is the uneasy feeling in the "room" when the discussions  
come up. So if you have an interest in the issues you're always torn  
between a) wanting to forward those issues in a new media space that  
you know should respond to them if it's not going to repeat some of  
the more egregious errors of the historical avant-gardes, versus b)  
having the conversation in places where you're going to feel  
recognised and where one can learn something. [Or, for people whose  
stakes in the discussion are higher than mine, there might also be  
the feeling that the "new media community" is not a particularly safe  
place to have the discussion.]  "Identity politics" was an  
unfortunately skilful framing of the uneasy feeling from  
predominantly white-male US academia that seems to have found  
resonance in other settler cultures (e.g. the Antipodes, and the "new  
media frontier"). The question of the subject is not an individual  

With that said, I'm grateful that this discussion is better than what  
we can expect on nettime - thanks Trebor!

Paul brought up the word "literacy" before, and from my POV this is  
what it comes down to. When the new media scene can have a discussion  
about gender and race to the level of sophistication that we are used  
to in other parts of the cultural sector - or optimistically, even  
more so - then everyone is going to feel a lot better. This would  
mean that Paul Gilroy's argument about black Atlantic culture as a  
"counterculture of modernity" can be discussed with the facility that  
we can talk about Benjamin - *particularly* if we want to then have a  
conversation about "remix culture" within the broad parameters of  
Euro-US modernism. A conversation about the remix unmarked by  
Gilroy's material (if not his argument) is fake and boring. Eduardo,  
this is nothing to do with "desperately separating things into  
categories". It's about having some accountability to the cultural  
forms we engage with as we do "theory" (or practice).

The literacy trope is useful because it implies the reading and  
writing of texts. In my experience new media discourse, as befits its  
Euro-US modernist roots, is particularly invested in reading a wide  
range of cultural texts without the capability to write in them. This  
is not to say that to read hip-hop and Hannah Höch, say, as examples  
of a more general "remix" methodology is always a bad idea. But when  
your work is being assessed within a particular community of practice  
the "general" (remix) is quite often less useful than something more  
specific (hip-hop). Or that one's ability to articulate the specific  
might be a precondition of having one's global generalities do useful  
work somewhere. This is a simple question of sustainability and not  
reinventing wheels.

John, I appreciate your sensitive discussion of Jamaican music, and  
that your your query about "innovative non-eurocentric new media  
artists" (would we have consensus on "innovation?") is motivated by a  
desire to see the discussion move forward pragmatically. But I have  
to say that laundry lists of "non-Eurocentric media artists" are part  
of the problem, not the solution. They become things that can be name- 
checked as examples of non-Euro practices and this leads to tokenism  
- not that tokenism is always worse than silence. FWIW, an upcoming  
issue of Leonardo has pieces on the issue from myself and others. But  
rather than looking for the marginal, it's more valuable, I think, to  
precisely have a conversation about the *centre* of new media  
discourse and its investment in particular racial/ethnic/gendered/ 
cultural norms.

Manovich the "media biologist"'s comment - asking for "proof" that  
social factors are at play in media change - is asking for "proof"  
that the few decades of feminist and anti-racist studies of science  
(and, implicitly, media culture) apply to him. This is a gendered,  
racial position, and it makes me fucking angry. I think that a "new  
media discourse" that can routinely include Haraway's work from the  
80s in its readers should be able to do a better job at not letting  
Manovich make a mockery of that entire tradition. That's what I think  
we should be able to talk about. And if we can have that  
conversation, then I think we make our discourse more interesting and  
more the kind of place where people who can have sophisticated  
discussions about race and gender issues might spend their time.




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