Pollution, Hot-Spots & Queer-Feminist Activisms


Pollution, Hot-Spots & Queer-Feminist Activisms


Panel co-sponsored by
ASA Women’s Committee and Digital Humanities Caucus

Feminist Making II:
Producing Cultural Critique

American Studies Association Conference
Los Angeles, Nov 2014
Thu, November 6, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Westin Bonaventure, Level 1, Beaudry A (L1)

Panel Abstract

This panel is second in a two-part series of roundtables that takes as its focus the contemporary interest in “making”–creating products by hand in a post-consumer, technology-rich environment for reasons ranging from personal fulfillment, to community building, to social and cultural critique. Through hardware hacking, open source software, crowdsourcing, alternative game creation, and the like, digital humanists have increasingly turned to making as scholarly practice. Here we seek to explore how feminist approaches to making and maker culture might–like “fun” in the theme for this conference–work as “a category of thinking and doing” that generates “alternate ways of living against” sites of social, economic, and political, as well as technological privilege.

“Feminist Making II: Producing Cultural Critique” seeks to engage the notion of “critical making,” by presenting the work of three scholars engaged in making projects that address social inequalities through creative, generative play and production practices. Each is interested in making as a feminist praxis that forwards critical discourse and generates equitable, accessible, and fair modes of production. For this roundtable session, short talks will be followed by significant time for discussion among presenters and audience members. The presentations are:

“Pushback Through Play: Game Design as Feminist Intervention.” Carly A. Kocurek will discuss her co-developed game, Choice: Texas is a free-to-play web game addressing reproductive healthcare access in the state of Texas. Crowdfunded through IndieGogo and developed with free-to-use game design tool Twine, the game asks players to contemplate the challenges that shape women’s access and choices. In using a playful medium to address a serious social issue, the game joins a growing body of empathy games (Spent; Depression Quest; dys4ia).

“Pollution Hot-Spots & Queer-Feminist Activisms.” Jarah Moesch will discuss LUNGS, an activist research project investigating pollution as a cause of diseases of poverty, first by interrogating how pollution information is collected and analyzed, and then by creating low-cost, remote-deployable pollution sensor kits to enable more informed decision-making in relationship to local, real-time pollution and health. This project is being developed in a research working group founded on feminist / queer models of collaboration and activism, flattened hierarchies, co-learning and skill sharing.

“Technologies of Power and Pleasure: GIS, Youth Organizing, and Decolonial Map-Making.” Jessica Lovaas will discuss her GIS-based work with youth. Her project examines how youth activist mapping in Los Angeles can appropriate spatial tools to highlight police abuses, invert racialized surveillance practices, and create spaces for feminist practice, authentic learning, and playful engagement with the urban landscape.

Together these projects present a variety of approaches to addressing existing social inequalities. Presenters will address how making practices can be used to address fundamental questions in American Studies and can, themselves, forward critical interventions. They will also discuss the stakes and risks of engaging in a research and production process that pushes at the boundaries of conventional scholarship. The discussion, moderated by session chair Jacqueline Wernimont, will invite audience members to consider the utility of practicing American studies through playful, critical engagement with emerging digital tools.