Dezember 2021

Fr10Dez12:15Fr13:45Edward KingAesthetics of Resistance to Algorithmic Racism in Brazil

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Organised by Research Area 4: „Literary Currencies“

The digital public sphere has become the most prominent stage on which both old and new conceptions of race in Brazil are performed and contested. During the collapse of the Partido Trabalhador (PT) regime in 2018, Facebook and WhatsApp became the vehicles for a steep rise in racist discourse among Jair Bolsonaro’s powerbase (Trindade 2018), which openly returned to the language of slavery as a way of increasing social divisions in the country. Furthermore, the startling rise of smartphone ownership among working-class populations in the 2010s (Spyer 2017) exposed even the most marginalised populations to data gathering tactics that serve to entrench existing race-based social inequalities (O’Neil 2017). However, while social media, and the artificial intelligence systems that drive it, has normalised racism among middle-class Brazilians, it has also become a platform for resistance. Following the assassination of Black politician Marielle Franco in 2018, the long-running movimento negro in Brazil adopted the social media tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement. Image-sharing sites such as Instagram have also become the seedbeds for artists who are challenging deep-seated racism in the country. While black populations in Brazil have long been the victims of technological systems, from the photographic equipment that enabled the eugenics movements (Stepan 1991) to the use of crime mapping software in Rio’s slums (Muggah 2020), these artists are articulating new connections between blackness and digital technologies. 

This talk focuses on the use of Afrofuturist aesthetics by artists and activists in Brazil to produce what Ruha Benjamin (2019) describes as ‘subversive countercodings’ of the dominant practices of racialization. Over the last ten years, artists working in various media – including filmmaker Adirley Queirós and visual artists Vitória Cribb and the Afrobapho Collective – have adapted a science fiction aesthetic developed in the 1960s and 1970s US by musicians such as Sun Ra and George Clinton to challenge the normalised disparity between black culture and science and technology. Although varied in their approaches, these practitioners are united in their use of Afrofuturism to contest what André Brock, Jr. (2020) identifies as the conflation of online identity with whiteness, ‘even as whiteness is itself signified as a universal, raceless, technocultural identity.’ In the process, they propose alternative conceptions of the human as intimately imbricated with computer systems that do not repeat modernity’s pseudo-universal versions of modernity that are predicated on anti-Blackness (McKittrich 2014).

The talk will be held via Webex. For more information and registration, please contact jasmin.wrobel@fu-berlin.de

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