My most recent long-term ethnographic research project, which included 15 months of fieldwork from June 2008 to August 2009, explores the relationship between grassroots media activism and autonomy among free radio activists in Mexico City and their links to alternative media projects and movements for autonomy around Mexico and the world. This work continues my focus on the connections between new media, grassroots activism, and emerging political visions. However, whereas my previous research was based in Europe and the U.S., this project focuses on Mexico City, a large southern metropolis on the front lines of the digital divide, and the links between free radio activism in Mexico City and wider urban popular movements, indigenous struggles, transnational activist networks, and the Mexican state. Among the questions I have asked include: What are the key communicational, technological, and aesthetic practices among free radio activists in Mexico City? How does free radio activism contribute to the generation of radical subjectivities? How do discourses and practices of autonomy circulate within free media and larger movement networks? What is the relationship between autonomy, illegality, and the neoliberal state? Most broadly, what is the relationship between media and autonomy?
My fieldwork was largely based on my participation as a researcher and activist in a Mexico City-based "free" or pirate radio, where I co-hosted a radio program with two Mexican colleagues about autonomy and also took part in wider free media networks. My research examined themes such as autonomy and technological infrastructures; free radio style and aesthetics; the internal cultural politics of autonomy within free media collectives; the relationship between illegality, neoliberalism, and the state; security and repression; and free radio, mass mobilizations, and the production of radical subjectivity.
I am currently writing a book based on this fieldwork that engages Cornelius Castoriadis’ work on autonomy and Michel Foucault’s writing on neoliberalism, suggesting that free radio be conceived as a mode of counter-conduct through which activists circulate alternative meanings and identities while governing themselves in spheres of communication, culture, technology, and socio-political organization. Bringing together anthropological and interdisciplinary theories of media, social movements, autonomy, and neoliberalism, I argue that free radio involves a complex interplay of excess and constraint in wider entanglements of technology, aesthetics, and state regulation. The links between new media, mass mobilization, and radical subjectivity is also a theme I have explored in relation to Occupy.
☛ Frequencies of Transgression: Notes on the Politics of Excess and Constraint Among Mexican Free Radios (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris (2012). Radio Fields: Anthropology and Wireless Sound in the 21st Century, Lucas Bessire and Daniel Fisher (Eds.). New York: New York University Press, pp. 160-178.
☛ The 99% and the Production of Insurgent Subjectivity
Jeffrey S. Juris (2012). Hot Spot-Occupy, Anthropology, and the 2011 Global Uprisings, a Web forum edited by Jeffrey S. Juris and Maple Razsa, Cultural Anthropology.
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