Department of Anthropology, Graduate Fellow, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley; Jen Smith,
Department of Ethnic Studies, and Graduate Fellow, Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, UC Berkeley
Keith P. Feldman,
Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
Héctor Beltrán, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Fellow, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley
Jen Smith, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies, and Graduate Fellow, Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, UC Berkeley
with Keith P. Feldman, Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley as respondent
Héctor Beltrán | "Staging the Hackathon: Codeworlds and Code Work in Mexico"
Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork between 2014 and 2016, this paper investigates emerging forms of hacking and entrepreneurial development in Mexico. To understand how hackathons, tech startups, and co-working spaces have become part of the national imaginary for rethinking Mexico, I first provide political and economic context. As research participants tease out the tensions between being-made and self-making, they learn to fill an overarching neoliberal agenda with substance, meaning, and materiality. I show how young people attend hackathons and hone their coding skills at co-working spaces in Mexico City and in Xalapa, as they hack away to build solidarity and find the coding bliss, the affective dimension one encounters when creating beautiful code. As participants navigate the seemingly contradictory domains of hacking and entrepreneurship, hacking emerges as a way to make sense of their future livelihoods in a precarious state and economy, as a way to exist in a system where things just dont seem to work, and as a way to let the code work intervene in narratives that have only delivered false hopes. As hackathons continue to proliferate across the globe, promising to turn anyone into a hacker, I propose that the emergence of the hacker as a subject position indexes a particular mode of orienting toward the world in contemporary society.
Jen Smith | "The Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899: Race, Space, and Edward Curtis' Photography"
The Harriman Alaska Expedition (HAE) of 1899 was an academic pilgrimage of the eras predominant intellectuals, including John Muir, Edward Curtis, and George Bird Grinnell. The team of scientists and cultural critics toured the Alaskan coast and collected over 12 volumes of data, maps, photographs and drawings. I do close readings of Curtiss photography to demonstrate the co-emergent traditions of anthropology and natural history as they are manifested in Alaska at the turn of the century. I argue that the undecided legal status of those indigenous to Alaska precipitated unprecedented interpretations of land in American history and created the unique status of Alaska as it is produced in representation and materially. In this way, I demonstrate how colonial definitions of land and race are co-constituted.