Scholars and literary artists interested in born digital literary works.
MLA 22 Decolonizing Electronic Literature
This session explores decolonization strategies in digital literature in the work of the Korean-American poetry duo Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, the Malawian poetry website www.SapitwaPoetry.com and a selection of Latin American digital poetry in Quechua and Spanish.
701V – Decolonizing Electronic Literature
Sunday, January 9. 1:45AM-3:00PM
- Chad Frisbie (City University of New York): “Cunnilingus in North Korea” and Other Sensations of Non-Nationalism”
This talk considers how the Korean digital poetry duo Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries deploys an aesthetics of non-nationalism in order to imagine planetary intimacies that have been occluded under postcolonialism, post-authoritarianism, and ongoing iterations of Cold War U.S. imperialism. I analyze their early 2000s Flash animation digital poem, “Cunnilingus in North Korea.” The piece’s fast-moving black monospaced typography on a white background is set to Nina Simone’s track “See-Line Woman.” This rustic digital poetics dramatizes a fictional speech that Kim Jong-il addresses to South Korea, scolding the South for its prude sexual norms. Kim then urges the South to adopt the North Korean policy of nationwide daily cunnilingus. For Kim, North Korea’s unparalleled success proves that ‘round-the-clock cunnilingus is fundamental to any nation’s prosperity.
With Simone’s rhythm and the bombardment of on-screen text often flashing and moving too rapidly to read, “Cunnilingus in North Korea” sends a programmatic gendered erotics into overdrive. This overdrive makes confetti of Cold War Korean binarisms: North/South, illiberal/liberal, poor/rich, communist/capitalist. When contextualized via Korea’s histories of colonization, gender, and sexuality, the piece reveals the absurdity of such cemented binaries as they orient global sensoriums, bodies, and desires across digitally inter-mediated populations in the 21st century. Digital exhaustion exhausts these binaries as positioned within a global voyeurism that consumes Korean bipolarity as one of many organizing principles for American Empire.
Black study, Orientalism, new media, queer theory, and transfeminism provide analytics through which I read Simone’s song about African American sex workers as juxtaposing Heavy Industries’ figuration of North Korean women in an eruption of unlikely geopolitical intimacies. Jazz, as this aesthetic’s centerpiece, upends the paradigm of the bipolar peninsula that spectacularizes North Korean immiseration and rationalizes U.S. imperialism as beneficial to the global economy. With its inventive dubbing and genre-mixing, “Cunnilingus in North Korea” thus theorizes a non nationalist erotics that delimits and exceeds contemporary forms of imperial rationalism.
- Susanna Sacks (The College of Wooster): “Against Algorithmic Aesthetics: Sapitwa Poetry’s Production of a Multilingual Poetic Public”
Over the past two decades, social media platforms have been celebrated for democratizing the production and circulation of literature. Groups on Facebook and WhatsApp enable artists to join workshops and gain inspiration, while public platforms like Twitter and Instagram promise an audience to anyone who wants to produce material. The quantifiable metrics of clicks, watches, and likes promises to undo the damage of human gatekeepers. But, as Roopika Risam (2018) argues, digital media reflect and enforce Eurocentic structures. The algorithmic curation of these platforms normalizes literary aesthetics rooted and maintained in the Global North. In this context, the Malawian website www.SapitwaPoetry.com offers an alternative vision of digital connection and social media literature, one rooted in cosmopolitan networks of the Global South. Sapitwa Poetry was founded in 2014 to help a growing community of young Malawian poets – whose work blends digital and canonical influences – share their work and develop an audience. Together with an accompanying WhatsApp group, Sapitwa has established a locally-rooted, transnational, literary network: the website, largely uncurated, hosts poetry in all of the country’s major languages; its structure allows users to browse by the classic digital functions of “Recent”, “Popular”, and “Trending,” but also by language, theme, and genre; and audience members can download, like, or comment on the poems themselves, establishing nation-specific norms of engagement. By fostering a specifically Malawian poetry network, I argue, Sapitwa fosters digital engagement that works against the algorithmic aesthetics of dominant social media networks. In this paper, I analyze individual poems together with the website’s social structure to demonstrate how Sapitwa’s national publication structure establishes alternative literary networks and norms. In doing so, this paper shows, Sapitwa responds to Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999)’s call for indigenous knowledge structures by creating a model of decolonial literary publication and community formation online.
- Verónica Gómez (CONICET, Argentina): “Glotopolitics of Latin American Electronic Literature: The Migration from National to Interzonal Languages”
In our postdoctoral project untitled “Migrant Forms of the Appearance of the Past in Latin American Electronic Literature: Memories, Media, Translations, Bodies” (IIBICRIT-SECRIT/CONICET 2021-2023), we study some forms in which migrations appear in a corpus of Latin American electronic literature (Kozak, 2017; Gainza, 2018; Flores, 2018; Rocha, 2019; Meza 2019; Gómez, 2018). Particularly, the migration of support -from print to digital- gives rise at the same time, to the migration of languages. Following the aforementioned sentence, the hypothesis of this paper is that the link between national language and literature is reformulated in intermedial languages (Kattenbelt 2008) and expanded literatures (Kozak 2017), configuring a new glotopolitical cartography (Marcellesi & Guespin 1986; Narvaja de Arnoux 2000). We articulate this hypothesis within the framework of Latin American electronic literature, where national elements and inter-artistic relations converge in an interzone (Gómez 2015; Gómez 2021 in press) in cyberspace, not exempt from disputes and inequality of power. The objective is to identify glotopolitical interventions in some pieces of work that we consider part of the so-called field of Latin American electronic literature from a homogenizing verbal national language to intermedial languages, promoting the interartistic crossing. The corpus for this paper will be composed by the following pieces of work hosted in Antología Litelat vol. 1: “Proyecto Quechua Memes” by Marisol Mena Antezana (Chaska Kanchariq) (http://antologia.litelat.net/obra-65), “ᴟBÁK ŠÉʔʟ ŠÍʔL Ɱ-ŠÎʔʟ” by Rodrigo Pérez Ramírez (http://antologia.litelat.net/obra-76); “Mi tía abuela / My Great Aunt” by Frida Robles Ponce (http://antologia.litelat.net/obra-51;); “Poesía Digital” by Eugenio Tisselli (http://antologia.litelat.net/obra-61).
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