Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gender in media archaeology: only a boys' club?

One of the set critiques of media archaeology is that it is a boys' club. That is a correct evaluation in so many ways when one has a look at the topics as well as authors of the circle of writers broadly understood part of  'media archaeology'. I make the same argument for instance in What is Media Archaeology?, but there is also something else that we need to attend to.

There is however a danger that the critique also neglects the multiplicity inherent in the approach. For sure, there are critical points to be made in so many aspects of Kittler's and others' theoretical work, but at the same time it feels unfair to neglect the various female authors and artists at the core of the field. In other words, the critique often turns a blind eye to the women who are actively involved in media archaeology. Let's not write them out too easily.

For instance Zoe Beloff's work is of essential value in this regards as her artistic practice digs out alternative media histories of women in a feminist media archaeological way. One should also check out such artists as Aura Satz and for instance Rosa Menkman too. (And the list could/should be extended!)

Lori Emerson is an active figure in the field through her Media Archaeology Lab. In terms of theorists, how can one neglect the pioneering work of Cornelia Vismann? Or for instance Wendy Chun (whether she identifies herself as media archaeologist or not, her work is such an inspiration always)? One of the key writes is Wanda Strauven with her film theory background. Several people in the field explicitly argue how central Carolyn Marvin's classic When Old Technologies Were New was to their thinking. Machiko Kusahara is bringing exciting topics on the media archaeological agenda and such inspirations like Margaret Morse and Vivian Sobchak - again, professors who do not necessarily identify with media archaeology per se... - are important forerunners. Lisa Gitelman and Lisa Cartwright's work pops up frequently. I myself consider for instance Jennifer Gabrys' work (especially on e-waste) a fantastic contribution to the media archaeology/obsolescence discussions. Similarly Shannon Mattern is someone whose work always deserves a shout out.

But for sure - this is just not enough. We could continue listing fabulous scholars but we also need to attend to the finer micropolitics of how articulations of gender, sexuality and embodiment could make the field increasingly vibrant. I myself am keen to follow the route of feminists like Braidotti in her expanded feminism that takes also ecology and animals as part of the concern: what are the processes of writing out, discursive and in non-discursive practices, which are threatening not only the life understood as Bios, but as well as Zoe: the very fundamental dynamics of life on the planet and beyond. Feminism also extends outside the questions traditionally considered about gender.

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