Gajalla, Radhika “Snapshots from sari trails: cyborgs old and new” in Social Identities (May 2011), 17 (3), pg. 393-408.
For the facilitation of Radhika Gajalla’s “Snapshots from sari trails”, I took the class through a data visualization exercise I had done in preparation for the assignment, to both aid our discussion and try and honour Gajalla’s intent that her paper be an exploration in conceptual story-telling (407).
Incorporating the theory of Donna Haraway (see Cyborg Maria’s blog postabout facilitating the class through an assessment of Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” just the week prior), Gajalla posits her paper as an examination of potentially oppositional cyborg contexts: cyborg location and cyborg technology. By researching the influence of social/political/economic forces that intersect, and by constructing analysis through several overlapping binary logics, Gajalla is working to establish a methodology for the emergence of knowledges, and calls upon these strategic polarities to delineate the potential sites of investigation for this particular exploration. Specifically Gajalla is exploring the interactions that arise at sites of intersection between old and new technologies, for the purposes of considering how labour and market forces in business play out in online and offline arenas. She examines the production associated to the sari in both offline and online places: the handloom-made sari, and the virtual sari made on a handloom in ‘Second Life’ (such as that which would be ‘bought/sold’ in this context), respectively.
In assessing Gajalla’s process, I decided to approach it as a bit of a puzzle. Creating a visualization of the layers and dualisms was useful, and allowed me in a small way to act on her hope that her work would instigate “a mapping of global virtual-real markets which opens up ways of seeing globalization and technology in relation to specific contextual transnational capital and cultural flows that shows how intertwined economics and culture are in the everyday practices of living online and offline” (398).
My mapping is a very simplistic Venn diagram to illustrate simple set relationships, and of course in walking through the step-by-step process with the class, a few peers had suggestions for improving upon the narrow applicability of the model, and expanding it beyond the Western-lens employed in Gajalla’s paper and carried forward by my diagram: Mary noted the need to see such a graph rendered in three dimensions and interacting with and layering other renderings of place and social spaces, to look at the sites in process inbetween; Alex suggested an useful visualization of Place as an incidence at a point of intersection in space/time, where the location is dynamic, shifting in relation to energy and/or materiality (or possibly spacetimemattering) (Barad, 2011: 124). [I created a version of this visualization, viewable here]
Also worth noting, Prof. Maria-Belen Ordonez suggested that the paper was a summary of a larger project in ethnographic research, and therefore we were not privy to some detail that may have assisted a deeper read of the material.
MAPPING the SNAPSHOT
Through the forced juxtaposition of elements to create specific intersections, Gajalla is working a hypothesis that issues which would otherwise be invisible can be observed this way (393). With a Latourian approach, Gajalla lays out the terms of her experiment, including acknowledgment of bias (outlined by Latour as ‘knowing is not disinterested’ (in Gajalla, 399)). I suggest that she is performing a question of emergence through a structured process reflecting everyday conditions.
Click to view an animated version of the Venn diagram constructing Gajalla’s interactions.
NOTE: I’ve converted the PowerPoint file into a 1:30 presentation, complete with a free (and quite obnoxious) stock music soundtrack to compliment the stark Venn diagram. Apologies to anyone who’s ears are offended by the horrible music.
Gajalla produces two locations to contextualize this exploration. She gives us an OFFLINE place, and an ONLINE place.
Next, in order to explore these places, she engages two main frameworks: Global/local, and digital diaspora.
With this formation, Gajalla is attempting to observe what Latour calls a process of translation that includes implied power dynamics that are easily presentable as “immutable mobiles” (399).
So, what is the otherwise invisible issue that lies at the heart of intersection, how can we understand it as a Site of emergence? Based on the conclusion to Gajalla’s paper we know that her goal here is to bring together ‘old’ and ‘new’ in a story so that we as the reader can see for ourselves how these spaces “coexist uncomfortably” in the current global economy.
Based on feedback from classmates, and despite countering Gajalla’s own assertions of the INDIVIDUAL being that which is placed in relation (393), I have a new suggestion that Gajalla’s assessment is mapping a snapshot of a layering of forces that materialize the site of TRANSITION, which converges as an encounter. De-centering the Western ideology here seems a productive move, and is sourced from Gajalla’s recent video dialogue on FemTechNet: “Feminism, Technology, and Place” featuring Radhika Gajalla, Sharon Irish, and moderated by Alex Juhasz. (At approximately the 33:50-34:38 mark)
What are these forces being layered? Based on Gajalla’s description (Gajalla, 393), the forces being layered here are globalization, technology, economics, culture, diaspora: acting upon and interacting with the conditions of her analysis.
As a mapping of the site of emergence, what are these spaces? I suggest they are the site of relation, where identity interacts with conditions of emergence of culture and technology. This is where the Cyborg is situated as Labourer and as a Affected being.
Moving on, these four quadrants are where Gajalla’s articulations of place as relational engage with expressions of social space. Remember that Gajalla notes that social spaces can exist in multiple places and magnifications (393)
Finally, these two remaining pockets we contextualize the force of technology by interacting with Machines as part of this emergent global social space.
There we have it, a snapshot of emergence contextualized into a site of Transition converged through the encounter.
So, perhaps this diagram maps a process, but it doesn’t tell us very much about Gajalla’s methodology.
Gajalla outlines her methodology as one that seeks to observe sites of emergence by building pedagogical ‘epistemologies of doing’ (or relational process) that are inclusive of qualitative ethnographic research (research that explores cultural phenomenon to understand the nature of knowledge in relation to notions of truth, belief, justice). She outlines how as the researcher the labour and struggle in this process is mediated by the challenge of technology, to write about the findings effectively. Suggesting that the craft of writing is what will make or break the effectiveness of the analysis reminds me of a question I’ve heard before that asks How is Research-Creation?
Gajalla describes how the unique features of processes like this create special circumstances that allow a political-economic moment for mobilizing the notion of digital diaspora” so that we can account for the “ways in which such diasporic subjectivities are produced” to understand how the “global/local continuum plays out in specific situations” (397)
In part, what this sounds like to me is that there is potential in the exploration of situated power dynamics of relation as a process of observing emergence, for better understanding how mass social change occurs.
So my primary question posed was: How might a dimension of DIFFERENCE, or RESISTANCE factor into this snapshot of emergence? What about DISSENT?
In response, many in the class spoke about the sense that a differentiation of online and offline was growing increasingly moot for committed cyber communities, in that a distinction between these places was less significant, or in some cases even acknowledged in their lives.
The conversation then migrated to a discussion of the contradictory nature of some online/offline dichotomies, such as the criminalization of certain online behaviours but not others— the heavily investigated and enforced illegality of creating and distributing child pornography, but the unpunishable adult-child sexual fantasy behaviour that takes place in the virtual realm, where no “real” child is involved, such as in Second Life.
Overall, the dialogue was productive and offered classmates opportunities to call on the variety of specialized knowledges and notions of online place as a mirroring, or transforming, site of emergence, and the process (and problems) in translating ethnographic findings and observations into applicable forms.
Barad, Karen. “Nature’s Queer Performativity” in Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 19(2):121-158, Spring/Summer 2011.
Gajalla, Radhika. “Feminism, Technology, and Place”, FemTechNet video dialogue featuring Radhika Gajalla, Sharon Irish, and moderated by Alex Juhasz. Pitzer College: November 14, 2013.
Razorblade Cookies. “Sari Telling is having a little grand opening hunt at her shop space in Jirisan.” September 12, 2008. Web. Accessed Nov 17, 2013. < http://razorblade-cookies.blogspot.ca//>
Saree Dreams. “Digital Saree for second life.” February 28, 2009. Web. Accessed Nov 17, 2013. <http://sareedreams.com/>