The Whose Knowledge? Journey: looking back at 2021

13 December 2021

2021 was a year to build up resilience after all that 2020 brought to us and our communities. Even though we continued to face the effects of Covid-19, and of other intersecting pandemics of racism, patriarchy, and the climate crisis, we also started to get our strength back and to embrace the future with joy and hope. In that spirit, we celebrated five years as a campaign and a feminist collective, welcomed more members to our (small but mighty) team, and helped launch the first dedicated fund for feminist tech in and for the Global South. We remain honored to have such inspiring partners, allies, friends, and co-conspirators who have been part of this journey. In this blog post, we offer you a glimpse of some of our milestones in 2021. 

Engaging in conversations with our communities

We kicked off the year with our #VisibleWikiWomen campaign, under the theme of #FeministRealities. We celebrated the women/trans/non-binary people who embody the everyday struggle of dismantling systems of power and privilege. We made an extra effort to center our Global South communities during this edition, in particular those based in Africa. Our focus this year was also broadened to create online spaces for collective learning experiences, and for holding conversations around online gender representation. By the end of our campaign, our partners had hosted six national-level #VisibleWikiWomen events online, successfully piloting local campaign ambassadors who facilitated these events: four in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania), and two in Latin America (Argentina and Uruguay). We also co-organized two large workshops with our partners AWID and World Pulse. Read more about #VisibleWikiWomen in our blogposts.

With Indigenous women leaders from the Pacific Islands, the Great Basin area of Turtle Island (the USA), and the Brazilian Amazon, this year we began to co-design our Honouring Our Guardians initiative — a collaborative process seeking to challenge and transform mainstream narratives around climate justice. Without Indigenous communities protecting our oceans, forests, and lands, often at the cost of their own lives, our planet would already be lost to us. COP26 and the lack of genuine commitments from most of our elected leaders clarified the urgency of centering — but not co-opting — the regenerative values, practices, and leadership of Indigenous women.  Watch and listen to our Guardians Maureen Penjueli, Persephone Hooper Lewis, and Yvonne Underhill-Sem in powerful conversation together on Indigenous knowledges, climate justice, and COP26, on our YouTube channel.

Seeking epistemic justice

We engaged in numerous discussions about epistemic or knowledge justice throughout the year: the different ways of knowing, doing, and being in the world. We wrote and spoke extensively about our feminist and anti-colonial practices, and how urgent it is to center the knowledges of marginalized communities — or the minoritized majority of the world — in our online spaces. For a special issue of the Global Perspectives journal, of the University of California Press, our three co-founders joined three of our fabulous advisors to write about challenging epistemic injustice through feminist practice

We also pushed for more nuanced and critical understandings of concepts that permeate discussions on online inequities. How do we center the knowledges, experiences, and imaginations of marginalized communities when thinking about access? Our co-director Anasuya Sengupta explored how this question intersects with ways of creating diverse, just, and equitable digital (language) infrastructure in an essay for Seminar, co-written with Puthiya Purayil Sneha, from the Centre for Internet and Society in India. In the Open for Discussion Conversation Series, organized by the University of London, she also questioned what we mean by access when we discuss the internet space. Our co-director Adele Godoy Vrana explored what we mean by decolonizing the internet from her perspective as an Afro-Indigenous Brazilian, in her interview for História da Ditadura, which was held in Brazilian Portuguese.

You can find Whose Knowledge? clips and presentations throughout the year in our media library.

Coming together to decolonize the internet 

This year, we also continued to offer our tough love to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. During Wikimania (the annual conference of Wikimedians), we shared strategies for decolonizing Wikimedia projects, and presented a themed community meetup about our #VisibleWikiWomen campaign, held in Spanish by our campaign coordinator, Mariana Fossatti, and our Communications Co-Lead Claudia Pozo. Our co-directors also joined the event: Anasuya took part in a panel about English as a lingua franca of the Wikimedia movement, and Adele revisited the Juneteenth Wiki Civil Rights Conference of 2020 with our friends at AfroCROWD. 

We believe in centering the frames and practices of our communities as a pathway to a feminist and decolonized internet. Since 2018, we have held a series of conversations as part of our “Decolonizing the Internet” initiative. As part of these efforts, we gathered over 40 “unusual allies” to reflect on issues of power and representation in structured data,  i.e. machine-readable data. “Decolonizing the Internet’s Structured Data” was an online event organized in partnership with Wiki Movimento Brasil and Wikimedia Deutschland, which served as a pre-conference leading up to WikidataCon 2021. At WikidataCon, the annual conference for the contributors to Wikidata, Wikimedia’s free and open structured data repository, we shared insights from this conversation. Our co-director Anasuya Sengupta kicked it off with a keynote on why knowledge justice matters for structured data, and we took part in Q&A and follow-up sessions too. Later, in October, Anasuya delivered a keynote at the DecidimFest on Decolonizing the Internet and radical democracy and joined a panel on data decolonialism.

We cannot rest, but must

Ella Baker, the extraordinary Black civil rights and human rights leader, once said, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest…” Yet without rest, without genuine self and collective care, we cannot be in meaningful service to our communities and our shared liberation. We are taking a longer than usual pause at the end of this year, to practice this shared commitment to rest as a political act, and are grateful that we can do so. We hope everyone in our communities is able to do the same. More on this in our last newsletter of the year.

Though the year has challenged us in profound ways and tested our resilience, we could not have done all we’ve done without the communities we work alongside: our many allies, partners, funders, advisers, donors, and friends. May we continue to come together and co-conspire for feminist presents and futures centered on the imaginations and the knowledges of the minoritized majority of the world.

See you in 2022, after our shared rest!

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