Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: The Political
As global valuations of Silicon Valley technology industry companies continue to grow, making them some of the richest and most powerful companies in the world, many of these companies are also engaging in dubious practices of personal data extraction (Zuboff 2015), labor disruption (Dyer-Witheford 1999), experimental governance schemes (Lynch 2017) and the increasing commodification of everyday life. In this context, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a need for a critical ethnography of the technology industry. Drawing from ethnographic inquiry into the technology industry in Romania, Honduras, India and beyond, as well as “at home” at Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, this panel will explore themes of tech-colonialism, tech-utopics, liberartian tech ideology, and the materiality imposed by tech innovation culture. We will also study infrastructural IT appropriation, post-Cold War specters, the impact of the technology industry on health-care and the libertarian ideologies undergirding tech and territorial disruptions, including neo-reactionarism and accelerationism. Bringing together critical race and gender studies with anthropology, we will also pay close attention to the racial and gendered dimensions of Silicon Valley and its imperiality. We argue that the techno-capitalism that has emerged through “disruption” culture requires a close and detailed critical and political analysis. In the San Francisco Bay Area, innovation culture is linked to contexts of gentrification and racial dispossession, but what happens when it travels, whether through large company migrations, offshoring, digital nomadism, special economic and governance zones, or simply through the diffusion of user practices and social media? To answer these questions, we will trace how unique configurations of race, gender, space, and technoculture emerge when “Silicon Valley,” broadly understood, lands in people’s lives and spaces. These configurations, we propose, require their own theoretical and ethnographic work.