Catalyst journal for feminist studies


Title: A feminist methodology to understand Free software territory: the
“Baobaxia” network in Brazil

This article will discuss the process of building Free Software-based
digital infrastructures for communities in the Northeast of Brazil. We
will focus on the experience of the project Baobáxia, “a rota os Baobas”
an “eventually connected network” composed of a number of “Mucuas”
(nodes) located in over 200 communities of the Mocambos, a network of
Brazilian quilombos (freed slave communities). Baobáxia consists in
networked in online repositories operated in remote locations sometimes
through satellite links, and offline repositories shared by a social
network of travelers between Quilombos. The project was formed in 2004
in order to operate organically as spaces of transmission and
communication within the community.
First, we will provide the background of the network and characterize
their unique discourse as both the development of the language and of
the networks are largely understudied, hidding the benefice of these
aparatuses to a broader understanding of decentralized network,
intersectional and anticolonial studies.

Then, we will proceed to explore its intersections with other projects
for alternative computing in the country, such as “metarecyclagem” where
a group of Brazilian technologists and artists have been promoting the
“up-cycling” of computing technologies and their usage for artistic
expression through regular “Gambiarra” (translated as “makeshift”) and
“HiperTropicalProgramacao” events alongside several independent
technical and political collectives in the country. Another political
articulation of the reflection on the appropriation of digital
technologies has given rise to practises which are identified by local
activists and artists as “technoshamanism.”

We describe the work we conducted in the context of Baobáxia through a
series of interviews and direct participation in the activities of the
network, exploring their specificity vis-à-vis activist networks in
Europe where we are also implicated, such as the experience of bricolabs
which have been active for the past 18 years.

The research problem we will explore has to do with question of the role
and place of digital activism in the Brazilian context, and how a “third
technoscape” emerges from an anti-colonial position and cultural
narrative reappropriation, leading to the invention of “singular
technologies”. We will focus on how local “knowledges” of oppressed
Brazilian groups are translated into the formation of computer networks
and technologies that create infrastructure for Afrobrazilian communities.

Brazil is a fertile territory for new forms of technopolitics which can
be actualized by debates in intersectional and post- / anti-colonial
studies. Working from a necessary distance, the article will examine the
experience of direct implication of the authors. The analysis we pursue
highlights the importance of minorised technological practice that
convey integral organisational models opposing capitalist hegemony. In
order to frame our research problem, we will mobilize a feminist
epistemology which considers necessary principles of “intra-action”
(Barad 2007) across heterogeneous
sociotechnical spaces.


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Responding to Sarreta’s comment: 2) frame the whole descriptive work based on the feminist
technoscience literature.

I think we should refer to Braidotti’s perspective aboutrelational setups and argue that community based networks create new knowledge based on different relational setup responding to existing knowledge from communities.

The question of costs often translates into issues of scale and scalability that are dominant in technological societies. The “scale solutionism” starts from the desire to solve cost problems and ends in hyper-control, restriction, dissociation and finally disaster conducted by non-aware necropolitics, where the politics of death systematically takes over the politics of life (Mbembe 2003),

several issues need to be addressed that would further ground the development of our community processes, based on a long history and knowledge of existing knowledge. Some affordances might lead to explore different relational setups that would help to transpose the question of costs.

TRANSMISSION : While power relations build over cycles of crisis, they seem to destroy reference points and instrumentalize history to the service of immediate power relations. Indeed, it is clear that technological breakthroughs importantly transform relational processes, but contrary to what we once have thought, they do not expose the processes of power. On another hand, critical discourses, tools and concepts are developed through time, and they often are sourced from fragile social structures, either isolated individuals or community structures. As a consequence of this fragility, they most often repeatedly deal with recurrent issues, while transmission lines are broken, they each time face the need to develop a discourse and solutions. It is important to intervene at community scale in the process of transmission to create community genealogies and a history of community movement through time. This would allow us to keep those principles active during technological transitions. One of the possibilities is to expose current technological communities to existing social science and allow for transdisciplinarity and politicization of the discourse. The project of hackerspaces workshops, for example, inscribes itself into a transactional process of transmission through a collective community context.

BIOPOWER : As it appears that sovereignty stands as a condition of control, the question of the unicity of self, is again a transient issue persisting across time and through technologies. Variations of intensity characterize the thinking subject and are mostly characterized at its boundaries; those variations set a relational process independent from the view of a holistic body. They in principle go far further than the limits of human species in setting the potential of transformation into a process of becoming. According to Rosi Braidotti, this denaturalization process is one of the effects of technological progress in fields such as biogenetics where we integrate different species in an inter-evolutionary process.

TRANSFORMATION : After a consciousness-rising process triggered by the awareness of a state of dismay, it could be timely to consider, observe and acknowledge a trans-species potential for knowledge diversity leading to social sustainability. This process can be thought as both individual and collective, implying both personal mutation, and through collective support, a larger transformational process. Being in the instant and acting from this perspective, and responding to the trigger of the momentum is a way to reach the acknowledgment of the possibility of instantaneous transformation. Variations of codes, genres and modalities of expression of the idea see transposition as a possible solution for genetic transmutation and exchange.


Responding to Sarreta’s comment: 1) more clarity in terms of the research project

I will get back to the first abstract sent:

However as difficulties as political context transforms, in this paper I will also focus not only on relating from the exterior about a southern situation, but also propose to continue an intersectional observation from north to south. Relying on activism and speculative narration to conduct our messages, dealing in solidarity from north to south, sharing experiences language, strategies forming systers networks,

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