On Friday 24 February staff at the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds celebrated their second Sadler Seminar in the ‘Remapping World Cinemas in a Digital Age’ series. The event was entitled ‘Can the Subaltern Speak Online? The Potential of Audio-visual Media for Advocacy and Resistance on the Internet’ and it moved away from looking at cinema per se to focus on the subject of audio-visual materials available on the internet. The event had a particular focus on the appropriation of new media by indigenous communities in Latin America.
The event comprised eight presentations from academics, activists and/or indigenous community members, covering a wide spectrum of examples from across the region. In the first panel Vilma Almendra Quiguanás, a Nasa-Misak community member from the Southwest of Colombia and representative of the Pueblos en Camino network, spoke about her experience of appropriating new media in her community as part of the communications team, the Tejido de la Comunicación para la Verdad y la Vida, of the Asociación de los Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca. Genner Llanes Ortiz, a Mayan anthropologist from the University of Leiden discussed his research on the presence of indigenous language materials from Latin America on the Internet as part of his work with the Global Voices project. And Josep Cru of Newcastle University followed up with an analysis of the comments sections that accompany YouTube rap videos made by Mapuche and Mayan rappers singing in their respective indigenous languages.
In the second panel, we heard from Sebastián Gerlic, director of the NGO Thydêwá, based in Bahia, Brazil, about his long-standing experience of creating spaces for indigenous self-expression online, followed by Laila Thomaz Sandroni, a doctoral student at the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, who discussed her experience of working with the same indigenous communities as Sebastián in order to co-create web-based materials. Eliane Fernandes Ferreira, from Bremen University, then gave a presentation on her experience of the way in which the internet had been appropriated by Ashaninka communities in the Amazon, and, by way of a counterpoint, Tori Holmes (Queens University Belfast) discussed the circulation and impact of web-documentaries and processes of urban change in Rio. Finally, one last panellist who was prevented from attending in person by Storm Doris, made his presentation via skype: Matthew Brown (University of Bristol) discussed the lessons to be learned from the high-profile Quipu Project which has sought to use digital media to denounce forced sterilisations in Peru in the 1990s.
The event was well attended and sufficiently stimulating that a spontaneous after-lunch roundtable discussion ensued. We are currently endeavouring to bring together a summary of the day’s discussions in the form of a multi-authored article. The event was kindly sponsored by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute, the AHRC Open World Research Initiative: ‘Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community’, the Instituto Cervantes and the Network for Hispanic and Lusophone Cultural Studies.