Call for Papers: Margins and digital technologies, Journal des anthropologues

Call for papers for the Journal des anthropologues on the theme Margins and Digital Technologies

Social, political, cultural and economic challenges raised by digital technologies are often studied from the perspective of the educated urban populations who live in North America and Western Europe. Hence, these tools are attributed great powers. Their capacity to accelerate interactions and to reduce space-time distance is believed to impact deeply the ways we think and live. The kind of relations and simultaneous presence they foster have led us to reconsider communities, institutions and spaces using other models than those of discrete groups structured by territoriality. Moreover, it is generally considered that these technologies have reshaped the political economy of public speech in our societies, since they offer individuals or groups condemned to a form of social invisibility means to express themselves in the public space.

This call for papers asks for a shift of perspective by questioning the challenges raised by digital technologies from the “margins”. Contributors will be asked to focus on the ways they impact people’s lives outside of Western Europe and North America, as well as in spaces constructed as marginal. What shapes does the digital economy take within these spaces, through formal and informal channels? How do individuals appropriate the many existing technological devices generated by digital technologies? What are the new hierarchies and inequalities created by the (lack of) dissemination of these new tools?

Contributors will also focus on the ways minoritized groups are using digital tools for social, political, cultural or economic intervention. They should adopt a critical perspective by paying attention both to the limits and the ambiguities of the ways marginalized actors use these tools. While, digital tools have been used to promote emancipation, they can also lead to new forms of domination and enslavement.

Finally, this call for papers aims to promote a theoretical discussion about the notion of margins itself. How can we construct a robust notion of margins (be they spatial, political, cultural, or economic) in a world shaped by codes, algorithms, flux and networks, where the notions of distance, proximity, subject and object have to be re-examined?

Conducted by an interdisciplinary team, this call for papers is aimed at social scientists as well as digital practitioners (artists, programmers, hackers, etc…). This deliberately open call should allow for robust discussion with other research methodologies, social or artistic points of view. We will focus on three topics in this special issue:

Deconstructing and reconstructing margins

The papers should re-consider the ways by which margins are constructed. Contributors will question the relevance of this cultural and political construct, shaped by an Euclidian perception of space, that still dissociate between “centers” and “peripheries”. To what extent the study of different modes of appropriation of digital tools can highlight the situated and ethnocentered dimensions of this notion?

Margins and modes of appropriation of digital technologies

The papers should also focus on the specificities of modes of appropriation of digital tools in spaces constructed as marginal. How does digital technology pervades these spaces? Through which networks of formal/informal economy? How do dominant actors of digital technologies adapt to those modes of appropriation? In what ways marginal spaces are also places that favours offshoring strategies conceived by the dominant actors ? Digital technologies are often studied in urban contexts, how are they used in rural contexts? How do individuals, considered to be living at the margins, actually use digital tools? Can we consider margins as labs to understand the ways in which people subvert digital norms and dominant codes?

Margins and digital tools, between domination and resistance

Finally, the papers should discuss the ways marginalised actors (individuals, artistic and cultural groups, political groups…) use digital tools to defend their rights. How are those tools used by those actors (as means to transgress censorship, as means to gain visibility, as tools to mobilize…)? How do they organize, spread information, towards which audiences, on which scales and with what consequences? To what extent are those tools also constraining and how do those constraints impact people’s initiatives? What is the impact of these tactics compared to the strategies of social, political, economical and cultural domination, which also largely use digital tools?

Editorial team

Tristan Mattelart : Professor, International Communication Paris 8-Vincennes-Saint-Denis  Univeristy, Culture & Communication, member of the CEMTI

Cédric Parizot : Anthropologist of politics at the Institut d’Etudes et de Recherche sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman – IREMAM (CNRS, Aix Marseille Université) Aix en Provence.

Julie Peghini : Anthropologist, Associate professor, department Culture and Communication   Paris 8-Vincennes-Saint-Denis University,  member of the CEMTI

Nadine Wanono: Anthropologist and filmmaker, Researcher CNRS, Institut des Mondes   africains


– 1st of June 2014: Abstract should be send at: 1000 and 1500 words
– 30 June 2014 : Answer to the authors
– Final version (40.000 typed characters, including spaces) should be received by November 2014
– This special issue will be published by the end of 2015