This essay examines how “decolonization” has become a buzzword, arguing that its trajectory follows that of “intersectionality,” another term popularized in media spaces and embraced by white leftist activists both in and outside of the academy. I propose that discursive activism online can be understood through two modes: extractive currency and redistributive currency. Exposing extractive media practices, this essay considers how “decolonization” has become commodified and stripped of its connection to the vital work of Indigenous people, transformed into what I call an “extractive currency” that promotes self-styled white “radical” voices at the expense of Indigenous sovereignty. Decolonial feminist media theory, I suggest, has a crucial role to play in undoing the power of this extractive currency in favor of a redistributive currency by unveiling the role of media in creating it and, instead, centering models of decolonial feminist activism. This exploration of #MMIW, the social media hashtag drawing attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women, demonstrates how media can be used in tactical ways to transform local activism into transnational phenomena while insisting on the need to attend to the ongoing experience of colonial violence, born from Indigenous dispossession and genocide, that threatens the lives of Indigenous women. In this way, I suggest, decolonial feminist media theory has a crucial role to play in reimagining the economies of media activism.
Indigenizing Decolonial Media Theory: The Extractive and Redistributive Currencies of Media Activism
Roopika Risam is Associate Professor of Education and English at Salem State University. Risam’s first monograph, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2018. She is the co-editor of Intersectionality in Digital Humanities (Arc Humanities Press, 2019), South Asian Digital Humanities: Postcolonial Mediations Across Technology’s Cultural Canon (Routledge, 2020), and The Digital Black Atlantic in the Debates in the Digital Humanities series (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). She is Principal Investigator of the Digital Ethnic Futures Consortium, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Roopika Risam; Indigenizing Decolonial Media Theory: The Extractive and Redistributive Currencies of Media Activism. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2022; 8 (1): 134–164. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2022.8.1.134
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