Tool / From Territorial Acknowledgements to Technological Acknowledgements



Part of: Doing Feminism in the Pandemic

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The Feminist Media Studio is located on the lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation, who are the custodians of the lands and waters on which we frequently gather. The FMS has been using Territorial Acknowledgements grounded in the models of the Concordia Indigenous Directions Leadership Group, collectively drafted by  Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean Dr. Karl S. Hele, and Dr. Louellyn White, for the past several years.[1] We begin events with this acknowledgement to support Concordia’s broader commitment to decolonization, and to recognize Indigenous presence on the lands the Studio occupies. We do so more specifically to recognize the historical and continuing violence of educational institutions—and of an improperly intersectional feminism—as instruments of the settler colonial project that must be resisted.

At the FMS, we strive to make specific the FMS’s situatedness in the settler colonial landscape through the territorial acknowledgement, our position not as “guests” but as “uninvited guests” (thus, structurally, intruders) on these territories. We also strive to make the acknowledgement specific to the event that we’re hosting, and to the possibilities the event potentializes for doing decolonial work.

As the pandemic made its way through our various communities in the spring of 2020, we were asked to withdraw from public and institutional spaces, to confine in our homes, and to continue our work remotely. As FMS began to articulate the Doing Feminism in the Pandemic project, we felt an urgent need to do two things: 1) to acknowledge that those private spaces also (although scattered and singular) are located on unceded lands; 2) that the virtual spaces we’ve been invited into do not free us from the infrastructures of settler colonialism, far from it.

Technological acknowledgement is a tool we devised to recognize not only the territories on which hosts of events are located, but the territories on which the media infrastructures of videotelephony, which we use to gather during  the pandemic, are located. Zoom does not emerge in the ether; its headquarters are located on the land of the Muwekma Ohlone peoples. It draws videotelephony resources, energy, server space from infrastructures spread around the globe, many responsible for the continued dispossession of Indigenous lands and the shoring up of settler colonial institutions. Technological acknowledgements were for us a way of acknowledging the persistence of settler colonial infrastructures in the pandemic. They were a way of highlighting the gap between #ShutDownCanada (the call of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in February 2020) and the legislative demands to confine in our homes during  the first wave of the pandemic.

The Technological Acknowledgement we have drafted is not itself meant to become rote. The data it cites must be updated, the realities it points to altered. It serves as an example for acknowledging the specificity of occupation in each instance of its use, and across the material and virtual spaces where we do feminist work. Please use and share with us your Technological Acknowledgements from your contexts and events.




Technological Acknowledgement

In the pandemic, the Feminist Media Studio has moved online. Because our encounters occur through Zoom, we have drafted the following to precede all online events and gatherings:

We would like to begin this conversation with an acknowledgement that while Zoom is the technical “custodian” of the platform on which we gather, this makes us no less occupants of the multiple territories on which we are all physically located. The Feminist Media Studio continues to be situated on the lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation, and just because we cede our spaces of physical gathering during the pandemic, we have not unceded them (yet).

The platform on which we gather also does not emerge out of the ether: it is a product of Silicon Valley, a “unicorn” company valued at $48.8 billion (as of mid-May), five years after launching. It became a public traded company in 2019, and has now more than 300 million daily meeting participants, up from 10 million before the pandemic. Its shares are up 340% in 2020, even as the economy crumbles around us.

Zoom’s headquarters are located on Muwekma Ohlone Territory. The Ohlone have historically understood about sustainability, about communal societies, about giving gifts to those who passed by, and about sharing space. Their horizontal organization might inspire different emergent models of peer-to-peer “networking” in the pandemic than we’re enacting here in Zoom.

We thus see Zoom as a platform which connects us AND which alienates us from the aims of restitution, justice and reparation. In connecting us for now, it might yet take us to those other modes of networking.