From Third Cinema to Media Justice

Decolonizing Digital Media

Building on the provocation of Third Cinema, the idea that one could decolonize cinema through a set of practices, Third World Majority uses digital media and prompts me to ask how one could decolonize digital media? One possibility is to consider the socio-economic apparatus of cinema that is analyzed by Getino and Solanas, and to transpose this to analyze the socio-economic structures that digital media require. While Getino and Solanas point to the US dominance of cinema through Hollywood, the Third World Majority describe the even more concentrated control of the media by a few corporations saying, "most of the information that we receive on the radio, television, in print, in the movie theatre, at home on cable and through the Internet is owned by the the “Big Six” media conglomerates: Bertelsmann AG, AOL Time Warner, Disney, Fox, Viacom, and Vivendi-Universal." 

For contemporary LGBTQ and people of color politics, inspired by women of color feminism, decolonization has a meaning that is more personal than Getino and Solanas' critiques based on national borders. Jacqui Alexander, in Pedagogies of Crossing, argues for a vision of decolonization that is both "interior" and exterior, including spiritual and emotional liberation as well as legal and economic freedom for people in the global south and with global south origins. She states "one of my major preoccupations is the production and maintenance of (sexualized) hegemony understood, in the Gramscian sense, as a map of the various ways that practices of dominance are simultaneously knitted into the interstices of multiple institutions as well as into everyday life"(2005, 4).  The knitting of power through both institutions and sexual desire resonates with the way contemporary queer and trans people of color use the word decolonization. Describing her participation in activism within the New School, Alexander states "we placed ourselves within new visions of scholarship that fused 'traditions of radical engagement, traditions of decolonization, anti-sexism, anti-racism, gay and lesbian liberation, with transnational feminist critiques'" (2005, 157). She describes political struggles for decolonization alongside transnational feminist, gay and lesbian movements, and expresses a collective desire to fuse those movements. 
Additionally, neoliberal capitalism today is defined in part by massive movements of populations migrating across borders, as well as globalized communications networks, which trouble any simple conception of decolonization. Grace Hong argues that 
We may understand women of color feminism's emergence in the 1970s and 1980s as one register of the shifts in the restructuring of the global political economy after World War II... after the advent of worldwide movements for decolonization, U.S.-controlled financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International national Monetary Fund (IMF) shifted to neoliberal policies that no longer depended on formal colonial ties but exploited the establishment of post-colonial nation-states... transnational immigration to the United States from the 1980s onward can be seen as a feature of this process. (2006 ,111-112) 
Hong describes how neocolonialism has incorporated demands made by earlier movements into "a universalized fetishization of difference... most clearly articulated through the rise of consumerism" which is evident in popular media's commodification of both queer culture and black culture (2006, 108).

To respond to the call from the "Guiding Questions" essay that opens this Scalar book, I look to the media productions made by youth in Third World Majority workshops. The video QPOC presents a view of decolonization, centered in queer, trans, indigenous, immigrant and people of color's experiences, which begins by creating a visual analogy between gender binaries and digital binary code. They state "I break the binary... I am two-spirit... I am goddess." 
In this short video, the authors claim that "colonization is not over" and see the ongoing process of neocolonialism in migration controls. In her book "Undoing Border Imperialism", published in 2013, Harsha Walia articulates a vision of Border Imperialism that links colonialism to border controls, and decolonization to freedom of movement. Yet the youth who produced this video articulated a similar argument, and extended it to the binary logic of the digital. The implied argument is that neocolonialism creates binaries between the colonizers, embodied in the IMF, WTO, World Bank, the governments that make up those bodies, police and immigration controls, and that these binaries are expressed in racial, gender and sexual norms. 
As digital media is made up of binary code, which is made visible on screen, and the authors state that they break these binaries, there seems to be a rejection of the digital, or an implication that decolonization can be accomplished by "breaking" the digital codes that enclose our lives. Yet despite their critique of digital media as limited to binary representation, these youth use digital media to make and distribute their argument. As such, their implied argument seems to shift from simply breaking the socio-economic structures that create and distribute digital media, to one of infiltration, of using digital media towards decolonial ends. One of these ends is the creation of images, both in life and in death, images of resistance and of mourning, for transgender people of color, queer people of color and LGBTQ people in the global south, such as Hijras in India, whose identity may be described as transgender in a US context, but to do so would be a colonial act of placing a western medical label on an identity that has existed far longer than that label. 
The choice made by these youth to infiltrate digital networks, instead of rejecting them completely, can be understood as a reflection of an ontological and epistemological shift away from the idea of a single center of power and a single event of decolonization, towards a more decentralized model, embodied in everyday practices. The choice to make decolonization an everyday practice is also embodied in the form of workshops, based on a network of political actors, that the Third World Majority uses. Through the Third World Majority workshops, the process of decolonization is decentered from being enacted by a few film directors as Getino and Solanas envisioned, and is instead enacted by a distributed media justice network of activists, artists, youth and scholars all working together. 

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