8

Cyber fem inism , technology, and inter national ‘developm ent’
R a d h ik a G a jja la a n d A n n a p u rn a M a m id ip u d i 1
Feminists from diverse backgrounds are considering the implications of the spread of Internet technology, and questioning its benefits for women in developing countries. Apart from having access to the Internet, wom en must also be able to define the content and shape of cyberspace.

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h e sim plest w ay to d escribe the term ’ c y b e r f e m i n is m ’ m ig h t b e t h a t it r e f e r s t o w o m e n u s in g I n t e r n e t t e c h n o l o g y f o r s o m e t h in g o t h e r t h a n sh op ping via the In tern et or b row sing th e w orld -w ide w eb 2 . O n e cou ld also say tha t cy b erfe m in is m is fe m in is m in rela tion to `cy b ersp ace’ . C y b ersp a ce is `in form a tion a l d a ta s p a ce m a d e a v a ila b le b y e le ct r ica l circuits an d com p u ter n etw ork s’ (V ita n z a 1999, 5). In other w ord s, cy b ersp ace refers to the `sp a ce s’ , or op portu n ities, for social i n t e r a c t i o n p r o v id e d b y c o m p u te r s , m od em s, satellites, an d teleph on e lin es Ð w h at w e h a ve com e to ca ll `th e In tern et’ . E ven thoug h th ere ar e several ap proach es to cy b erfem inism , cy b erfem inists sh are the b elief th a t w o m en s h ou ld tak e co n trol o f a n d a p p r o p r ia te th e u s e o f In te r n et t ec h n o lo g ies in a n a tte m p t to em p o w er them selves.T h e id ea th at th e In tern et can b e em p ow erin g to in d iv id u a ls a n d co m m u n ities w h o are un d er-privileg ed is b ased on th e n otio n of s cien tific a n d tech n o log ica l p r o g r e s s a l le v i a ti n g h u m a n s u f f e r i n g , offerin g the ch an ce of a b etter m aterial an d em otion al qu ality of life. In th is a rticle, w e m ak e co n ce p tu a l lin k s b etw een `o ld ’ a n d
Gender and Development Vol. 7, No. 2, July 1999

`n e w ’ t e c h n o l o g ie s w i t h in c o n t e x t s o f g lo b a lis a tio n 3 , th ird -w o rld d ev elo p m en t, an d the em pow erm en t of w om en . W e w ish t o q u e s t io n t h e i d e a o f `p r o g r e s s ’ a n d `d ev elo p m en t’ a s th e in ev ita b le res u lt o f s c ie n c e a n d te c h n o lo g y , a n d d e v e lo p a c r it i q u e o f t h e t o p - d o w n a p p r o a c h t o tech n olog y tra n sfe r fro m th e N orth ern to th e S ou th ern h em is p h ere. T h ere a r e tw o qu estion s of cen tral im portan ce: F irst, w ill w o m en in th e S ou th b e ab le (a llo w ed ) to use n ew tech n ologies un d er con d ition s that a r e c o n te x t u a l ly e m p o w e r in g to th e m , b eca u s e th ey a re d efin e d b y w o m en them selves? Second , w ith in w h ich In tern etb ased con texts can w om en from the South tru ly b e h eard ? H o w ca n th ey d efin e th e con d ition s u n d er w h ich th ey ca n intera ct on -lin e 4 , to en a b le th em to form coalition s an d collab ora te, aim ing to tran sform social, cultura l, an d p olitical structures?

T h e In te rn e t a n d `d e v e lop m e n t’
C y b erfem in is ts u r g e w om en a ll o v er th e w orld to learn h ow to use com pu ters, to g et `con n ected ’ 5 , a n d to u se th e In tern et a s a

by con sid ering the w ay s in w h ich the con d ition s of their lives are d eterm ined b y u n eq u a l p o w er r ela tio n s a t lo ca l a n d g lob al levels. then . a n d n ew te ch n o lo g y . B oth of us h av e interacted quite ex ten sively u sin g th e In tern et. d oes it m ean to say th at the In tern et an d tech n ology are fem inist issues for w om en in d eveloping n ation s. H ow ever. en suring that w om en are em pow ered b y n ew tech n olog y requires us to investigate issues w h ich are far m ore com p lex th an m er ely p ro v id in g m a terial access to the latest tech n olog ies. a n d m o d es o f p ro d u ctio n a n d c o n s u m p tio n . t h e In tern et is celebrated as a tool for en h an cin g w orld -w ide d em ocracy . W e d o n ot con sid er eith er of u s to rep res en t th e N orth o r th e S o u th . d evelop m en t. a n d d is cu s s som e of the problem s that w e en coun ter in our efforts. th is p r o ce s s is a ls o a p p a r e n t in th e c o n te x t o f c o lo n i a li s m . w h en th e p rod u ction of k n ow led g e ab out the colon ised n ation s served th e colon isers in justify in g their project. w orks w ith in acad em ia. W h at. w h en the p roject of d ev elopm en t in itself is sa d d led w ith colon ial b ag gag e? In ord er to exam ine w h e t h e r w o m e n in t h e s e c o n t e x t s a r e in d e e d g o in g t o r e a l is e e m p o w e r m e n t throug h the use of tech n olog y . . aim ing to create sp aces th at en ab le d ialog ue an d collab oration am on g w om en w i th a c c e s s to th e in te r n e t a l l o v e r t h e w o r l d . an d creates an d run s on -lin e `d iscussion lists’ 7 and w ebsites from h er N orth A m erican g eograph ical loca tion . technology. M uch of th e c u r r e n t li t e r a t u r e . In m uch of th e N orth . n eith er of us are represen tative In d ian w om en . S in ce th e S econ d W orld W a r. w e n eed to un d erstan d the com plexity of the ob stacles they face. an d m en an d w om en . and international `development’ tool for fem inist causes an d in d ivid ual em pow erm ent. w h ere ou r interaction s occasion ally overla p w h en w e e n g a g e in d is c u s s io n s a n d c r e a tiv e e x ch an g es w ith others 6 . O n e of us. a cr oss a fa irly v a st g eo g ra p h ical d istan ce of approxim ately 10. a n d b r o a d c a s t i n f o r m a t io n t o r e m o t e lo c a tio n s . T h e In tern et h as fascin ated m an y a ctivists an d sch olars b ecause of its poten tial to con n ect p eople all acr os s th e w orld in a w a y th a t h a s n ever b e e n p o s s ib le b e f o r e . w e e a c h d e s c r ib e o u r en g ag em en t w ith cy berfem inism s. is also involved w ith an N G O w o r k in g w i t h tr a d i ti o n a l h a n d lo o m w eavers in south In d ia. R ad h ika G ajjala.000 m iles. T h e In tern et an d its as sociated tech n olog ies ar e touted as g reat e q u a lis e r s . c l a s s . A nn apurn a M am idipud i. e a ch o f u s w ill u s e h e r p r o f e s s io n a l a n d p e r s o n a l exp erien ce of tech n olog y w ith in b oth `first w orld ’ an d `third -w orld ’ con texts. T h is u n con v en tion a l fo rm a n d m eth od seem s a pp rop riate for our sub ject m a t t e r : a b e l i e f i n t h e p o s s i b i l it i e s o f d ia lo g u e a n d c o lla b o r a tio n a c r o s s g e o g r a p h ic a l b o u n d a r i e s o f f e r e d b y t h is m ed ium of the future. w h ich w ill h e lp b r id g e g a p s b etw een social g roups: the `h av es’ an d the `h ave-n ots’ . O b s e r v e r s p r e d ic t th a t it w ill cause un preced en ted an d rad ical ch an ge in th e w a y h u m a n b ein g s con d u ct b u s in es s an d social activities. rein forces th is d iscourse of `d evelopm en t’ an d `und er-d evelopm en t’. A s s ch ola rs s u ch as E d w a r d S a id (1 9 7 8 ) h a v e p o in te d o u t. d evelo p m en t Ð in th e s en s e o f tra n s ferr in g a n d `d iffusing ’ n orth ern form s of scien tific an d tech n olog ical `p ro g res s’ .Cyberfeminism. from the ind ustrialised n orth into southern con tex ts Ð h a s b een seen b y m an y as th e on e ov er-a rch in g so lu tion to p o verty a n d in eq u ality arou n d the w orld . to m a k e ou r ind iv id u al vo ices a n d loca tion s a p p a ren t. T h e oth er. b ut on ce ag ain . T h i s p a p e r w a s w r it t e n v ia t h e In tern et. 9 T h e fo rm o f th is a rtic le I n t h e fo llo w in g . I n d iv i d u a ls c a n p u b lis h w ritten m aterial in stan tan eou s ly . a s w e l l a s m e d i a r e p r e s e n ta t io n s o f th e s o -c a lle d u n d e r d eveloped w orld . a s w e ll a s in s o m e m a te ria lly p riv ileg ed s e c t i o n s o f s o c ie t i e s i n t h e S o u t h . k n o w led g e. W e sh are c a s t e . W e h a v e w r itten th e a rticle a s a d ia lo g u e. `th e o r y ’ o r `p r a ct ice ’ . a n d r e l ig i o u s affiliation s. n a t i o n a l .

volun teerin g to com od erate tw o `d iscussion lists’. I b elieve that a ll of us ar e in teres ted in th e p os sib ilities o f a ctiv ism th rou gh electron ic com m un ica tion s. ou r g oals an d ou r a ctu al ou tp ut a r e co n sta n tly eva lu a ted . W h ile m em bers of the Spoon C ollective h av e d ifferen t ind ivid ual aim s in b elon g ing to th e C ollective.m a te r ia l c u lt i v a t i o n p a t te r n s . w o v en o f y a rn h a n d -s p u n fr o m lo c a l c o t to n b y w o m e n in r em o te In d ian villag es. I am p a rt of a tea m th a t h a s b een su ccessfu lly in trod u cin g a n d tra n s fer r in g th e te ch n o lo g y o f n o n -c h em ica l n atural d y es to clien ts. w h y s h o u ld a s k i ll t h a t h a s b e e n p ass ed d ow n s u cc ess fu lly ov er so m a n y g e n e r a ti o n s s u d d e n l y n e e d t e c h n i c a l con sultan ts lik e m e for train in g? Radhika Gajjala: I am a prod ucer. p o s t .virg in ia. w h ich I w ill m en tion later in this ar ticle. spon sors an d m an u fa ctu rers a re a l l a r t is a n s . I rely to a larg e exten t on h av ing ac ces s to k n o w le d g e th ro u g h N o r th e r n tech n olog y an d pow er structures. a n d m a rk et resea rch . M y s e c o n d r o le a s a p r o d u c e r i s i n creatin g electron ic `spaces’ w h ich are used b y people of d ifferen t iden tities to ex press th em s elv es an d ta lk to e a ch o th er 8 . it in clu d es tra in in g in b o ta n y a n d d y e . i s `d e d i ca te d to p r o m o ti n g d i s c u s s io n o f p h i l o s o p h i c a l a n d p o li t i c a l i s s u e s ’ (h ttp://lists. first. T h e S poon C ollective w as started in 199 4 . O n e m em b er o f th e collectiv e sa id . c o n c e p t s o f e c o . w h a t d eterm in es w h eth er a list `w ork s’ or n ot? T h e volum e of m essag es ex ch an g ed ? T h e qua lity of in form ation or d is cu s s io n ? B u t h o w w o u ld `q u a lity ’ b e d efin ed ? D o w e d eterm ine th e su ccess of th e list b y th e n u m b er o f m em b ers w h o s u b s c r i b e t o it ? O r b y t h e n u m b e r o f m e m b e r s w h o p a r t ic i p a t e b y s e n d in g m essages? B y the n um b er of w eb sites that h av e lin k s to our list-arch ives or the Spoon C ollective w eb site? H ow can w e tell from this h ow m an y people w e really reach ? In ord er to start up d iscussion lists. a n d fe m in is m . actual d y ein g tech n iqu es an d to o ls . e x a m in in g th e e x p e rie n ce o f a ctiv is ts lik e A n n a p u r n a . s p e cif ic m e th o d o lo g y f o r fu r th e r resea rch . aesth etics. T h i s h a s b e e n e x p o r t e d a l l o v e r th e w o r ld f r o m p r e co lon ial tim es o n w a r d s . of theory con cern ed w i t h c u lt u r e . A ll of us h av e set up. T h e course w e offer is com p reh en s iv e. I a m in co n tin u o u s d ia lo g u e w ith w om en from n on -privileg ed an d non w e s te r n lo ca tio n s . W e ce a s eles sly d iscuss their im pact on society a n d culture. T h e craft of trad ition al n atural d yein g is based on sophisticated k n ow led ge that h as b e e n p a s s e d d o w n f r o m g e n e r a t io n to g en er ation o f a rtis a n s . I h a d to tea ch m y self s u fficie n t p r o g r a m m in g a n d c o m p u te r - . pub lic activity ’ . O n e m ig h t w ell a s k . T h e S p o o n C o ll e c t i v e 9 . d y ed in the vib ran t colours o f in d ig o a n d m a d d e r . d iscu ssion lists tha t im plicitly question th e g lob al sta tu s qu o. m e n a n d w o m e n f r o m trad ition al w eaving com m un ities. or com m ercia l). F or ex am ple. W h ile the service w e p rovid e is sim ilar to th a t o f a n y p r o f es s io n a l co n s u lta n c y .10 Gender and Development Annapurna Mamidipudi: A s a field -w ork er in an organ isation w h ich fo cu s es o n th e d e v e lo p m en t a n d u s e o f e n v ir o n m e n t . person al. in on e w ay or a n other. but I am n o t b lin d to th e fa c t th a t th e s e p o w e r structures oppress w om en an d m en living in poverty in both N orth an d South. `O n e w ay in w h ich w e con ceptualise w h at w e d o is by talk ing about think ing [an d w ritin g/ speak in g on -lin e] as a civic. a n d collab oratin g w ith m en a n d w om en from the S outh.c o l o n i a li s m .f r i e n d l y tech n olog y . an d co n stru ct w eb s ites . a crucial d ifferen ce is that w e cater solely to tr a d i t io n a l h a n d lo o m w e a v e r s . T h e e n d -p ro d u ct created by these artisan s is exquisite h an d lo om ed cloth . an d I en tered it in 1995.villag e.ed u /~spoon s). o u r train ees. an d con tin ue to m od erate.f r ie n d l y d y e s f o r t e x ti le p rod u ction . I set up tw o fu rth er d iscu ssion lists in 1 9 95 an d 1 99 6 . s t a r t e d i n 1 9 9 4 . A s is ch aracter istic of m uch In tern et-b ased activity (w h eth er activist.

the trad ition al w eaver is seen a s a n o b ject o f ch a r ity . w o m e n o f le is u r e f r o m n o n . F or exam ple. C h in n u r is a little v illa g e in A d i la b a d . Just as they h ad b egun to fin d a f o o t i n g in t h e m a r k e t . c o d if i e d . Processes w h ich w ere the . th e w eav ers h a d intern a lised in f o r m a t i o n a b o u t `m o d e r n ’ c h e m i c a l tech n ology . in reality this further rein forced the im a g e of w eavers ’ tech n ology as n eed ful of input from outsid e exp erts. a n d s h ifted th e ow n ersh ip of the k n ow led g e to th ose ab le to `stud y ’ . a n d th is r e s u lt e d i n a lm o s t t o ta l e r a s u r e o f k n o w le d g e o f t h e tr a d itio n a l p r o ce s s e s w ith in these com m un ities. the org an ic processes of the trad ition al artisa n w eaver turn ed full cy cle. B u t th is p r o c es s m e a n t th a t k n o w le d g e w h ich h a d b een firm ly in th e d o m a in o f practice of the artisan s w as n ow con verted in to tex tu a l in fo rm a tio n . I n d ia n s th em s e lv e s co n tin u ed th is u p to th e ea r ly tw en tieth ce n tury . i n a n in t e r io r r e g io n o f t h e D ecca n plateau in South In d ia. in a cce s s ib le to th e tr a d ition a l p ra ctitio n er s fr o m w h o m th e inform ation h ad been g ath ered in the first in stan ce. ex ch a n g in g ser v ices a n d m a t e r i a l s .Cyberfeminism. D iffe ren t ca stes a n d co m m u n ities w ere inter-lin k ed in occupation al. H ow ever. th e w e a lt h o f k n o w le d g e o f d y e s a n d tech n iq u es th a t a d d e d a es th etic v a lu e to u tility . T h ere used to be a larg e con cen tration of w eavers w ith a r e p u ta t io n fo r e x ce lle n ce in th is a r e a . t h e spread ing w av e of m od ern scien ce ch an ged peop le’ s p ercep tion s of trad ition al tech n o log y . T h u s. rath er than those w h o `d o’ . T h eir reputation w as b ased on three thing s: t h e s k il l o f t h e f a r m e r s in p r o d u c i n g d ifferen t v arieties of co tto n . in the w eavers’ ow n m in d s as w ell as in those of oth ers. M y b ack g rou n d a s cr eative w riter an d stud en t in the h u m an ities h a d n ot tra ined m e for th e tech n ica l as pects of b eing an a ctive p rod uce r on -lin e. in m ost d escriptions of the han d loom ind ustry. fin a lly . in a b id to p reserv e k n ow led g e. th e d evelop m en t of ch em ica l d y es alm ost 100 y ears ag o in E urope h ad a c a l a m ito u s e f f e c t o n t r a d it io n a l I n d ia n d y ein g practices. technology. T od ay. t h e i r p r a c t ic a l kn ow led g e w as again fou n d w an tin g . c r e a t i n g a s t r o n g lo c a l m ark et econ om y w h ich w as en tren ch ed in th e trad ition s an d ritu als of d a ily life. a n d . L a ter in this article. E v e n in r e m o t e C h in n u r . and international `development’ r e la t e d s k i ll s t o b e a b l e to m a n a g e t h e tech n ical sid e. E uropean s h ad started to d ocum en t th e local d y ein g an d w eav in g activ ities in the eig h te e n th ce n tu r y . w ith in these ele ctr on ic s o cia l s p aces w h ich a re th em selv es b a sed in u n eq u a l econ o m ic. as w ell as s ocia l rela tio n s h ip s . w h o ca n su r v iv e 11 Annapurna: U n til th e n in eteen th cen tury . B ut ev en w h ile th e se lf-con g ra tu lator y b a ck pattin g w en t on am ong the n ation alists an d intellectuals. b ack to popularity w h en the colour of n eeli (in d igo) caugh t the im ag ination of ecolog y con scious con sum ers in the late 1970 s. exch an g in g spun y ar n for sarees (U zram m a 1995).w e a v in g com m u n ities spu n . W h a t sco p e is th ere for th em to d iscu ss a n d a ssert th eir d ifferen ces on an eq ual b as is. th e a b ility of d ifferen t g roups of people to w ork tog eth er a n d p ro c es s th e co tto n . A s th e o u t s id e w o r ld m u ta te d in to a g lob al villag e. prid e of the tex tile ind u stry of th is coun try w ere aban d on ed an d replaced b y ch em ical d y e s . d urin g specific season s or even ts. T h e on ly av ailab le inform ation about veg etab le d y es w a s d ocu m en ted in th e lan g u ag e of th e c o lo n is e r s . a n d p la c e d in lib ra ries o r m u s eu m s . a lth o u g h it loo k ed as if a d em and h ad b een created for their prod uct. a n d m y k n o w led g e is m ostly self-tau g h t. I w ill d iscuss m y e-m ail lists as p a r t o f a n e f f o r t t o t r y a n d f a c il i t a t e collaboration s b etw een fem inists across vast g e o g r a p h ica l b o u n d a r ies . m o st o f th e w eavin g ind ustry in the area w h ere I w ork w a s s h a p e d b y t h e d e m a n d s o f lo c a l co n s u m er s . th ey n o w sa w it a s o u tm o d ed . s ocial an d cultural relation s? In a sen se I suppose m y on -lin e ven tures could be called `cy berfem inist’ investig ation s.

a n d ch em ica l tech n o log is ts to in ter p ret th e tech n iq u es Radhika: M o s t h ig h ly -e d u ca te d w o m e n fr o m th e third w orld . o r . fa rm in g em p lo y in g th e g rea test n u m b er.w o r l d c u lt u r e s . h e h o p es .12 Gender and Development o n ly th r o u g h g o v er n m e n t h a n d o u ts o r p a t r o n a g e f r o m s o c ia l e l it e s . W e n e e d e d h is t o r i a n s t o a c c e s s i n f o r m a t io n f r o m li b r a r i e s w h e r e t h e d ocum en tation w a s k ept. altern atively . I t s a y s : `V e n k a t e s h U . O fte n . t h e jo urn ey fr om trad ition a l n eeli (in d ig o) to m o d e r n n a p h th o l ( c h e m ic a l) d y e s h a s m ea n t a jo u rn ey fro m s elf-s u fficien cy to d epen d en ce.S . after this m an ’s n a m e s t a n d f o r `U n s k i ll e d L a b o u r ’ : a p o w e r f u l s t a te m e n t o n h o w a n e x p e r t w eaver ch ooses to categorise h im self. victors w h o h av e `survived ’ o u r b a ck g r o u n d s . Y e t t h e ir `sun set’ ind ustry Ð as it w as referred to b y a top official in th e D epa rtm en t of H an d loom an d T extiles in ch arg e of form ulatin g s tr ate g y fo r th is in d u s tr y (p er s o n a l com m u n icatio n . I first cam e h ere as on e of a team of field w ork ers from an N GO w h ich offered m ar k etin g s u p p o r t to cr a ft g r o u p s . experien ces d on ’ t `coun t’. self-respect to su b ord ination . W e a v e r s ’ C o lo n y . w h ich is n ot often a n auton om ous person al ch oice. an d w h ich w ould a lso even tu ally d ecrease w ea vers’ d ep en d en ce on a fick le m a rk et a n d cen tra lis ed raw m aterial supply system s. T h is classification in the g overn m en t record s.s ty le e d u c a tio n a n d profession al statu s. w e a r e n o t represen tative.. N o w om an of th e t h i r d w o r l d h a s t h e l u x u r y o f n o t ch oosin g to b e w estern ised if sh e aspires to be h eard . a n d s o m e p ra ctitio n ers reca lled p a rts o f t h e m . a n d lu x ury w ith in glob al structures of pow er. as a r es u lt o f o u r ed u ca tio n a n d p r o f e s s io n a l s ta t u s . w e then n eed ed d y e in g ex p e r ts to in te r p r e t th e r e cip e s . w ill m a k e h im elig ible for a lo w g rad e job in a g overn m en t office. M an y of u s h a v e `m a d e i t ’ w i th i n w e s te r n is e d p r ofes s io n a l s y s tem s . S o m e s c h o la r s h a d research ed frag m en ts of the old processes. w e m e e t o th er p e o p le’ s e x p e c t a t io n s b y t a k in g o n t h e r o l e o f v i c t i m s o f t h i r d . Annapurna: O utsid e the h ouse of on e of the w eavers in th e v illa g e o f C h in n u r is a ch a lk-w ritten a d d r e s s b o a r d in E n g lis h . provid ed there w as active participation on the part of prod ucer g roups. a journ ey to `prim itivity ’ . en g in eers to cr eate a ppropriate tech n olog y to en sure fa stn ess a n d b rig h tn ess in colo u r s. or even sim ply to ach ieve a level of m a terial freed om . since w e are n ot `r e a l’ th ir d . in sh ort. so m e fe m in is ts fro m N orth ern b ack g rou n d s su g g est ou r . a n d h a v e en jo y ed th e s t a t u s o f t h e r e p r e s e n ta t i v e t h ir d w orld w om an w ith in g lob al stru ctu res of p o w e r. but w e w ere optim istic ab ou t the ch a n ce of reviving it. Y e t. T ra n sfe rrin g th e tech n olog y of n a tural d y e in g t o th e f ie ld p r e s e n te d m a n y c h a lle n g e s . In p a r t. F o r t h e m e n a n d w o m e n e n g a g e d in w e a v i n g in v il la g e s a c r o s s I n d i a . W e ourselves d id n ot k n ow the tech n olog y. b o tan ists to p ar ticip ate in th e p r oces s o f id en tify in g m a terials . w h e n w e r e fu s e th es e roles a llotted to u s . E v e n a s w e d em on strate our poten tial b y attain ing the le v e l o f e d u c a tio n a n d `w e s te r n is a tio n ’ required to b ecom e pow erful w ith in g lobal structures. a n d o u r s to r ie s a r e n o t th o s e o f m a n y tr u ly u n d e r-p riv ileg e d w o m en in third -w orld location s. 1 9 99 ) Ð h a s th e seco n d la rg est n u m b er o f p ra ctition er s in In d ia . th is h ap p e n s th r o u g h a cq u ir in g w e s t e r n . N a tu r a l d y eing seem ed an option w hich w ould ad d value to th e cotton cloth. com fort. Y et. w h eth er or n ot w e live in the N o r th . w e are silen ced on ce ag ain . alth ough w e are of the third w o r ld .S. ex p e r ie n c e a p a r a llel jo u r n e y to `prim itivity ’ in the sen se A n n ap urn a u ses ab o v e. T h e s o u r ce s o f in fo r m a t io n a va ila b le w ere tex ts Ð som e of th em 3 00 y ea rs old Ð n otin g origin al p roce ss es of a r t is a n p r a c ti c e . C h inn ur’ .w o r ld w o m e n . T h e initials U .

w h ich t e c h n o lo g y is t r a d it i o n a l a n d w h ic h m od ern ? W h o is to d ecid e w h ich on e is the road to em pow erm en t an d self-res pect? 13 Radhika: M y journ ey to `m od ern ity ’ b eg an w ith an increasing aw aren ess of m y ow n ign oran ce. H er th ree-y ea r-old d au g h ter’ s s t a p le d r in k w a s w e a k c o f f e e . w h ich h e h im s e lf h a s w o v e n . w h i le listen ing to h er h usban d tell th e story of h is successes . d r u n k w ith o u t m ilk . W e d id n o t w an t to im pose on them Ð in the n am e of tra d itio n a l tech n o lo g y Ð p r oce s se s th a t w o u ld p la c e d e m a n d s o n t h e m w h i c h w o u ld b e m o r e o p p r e s s iv e th a n to x ic ch em ical d y es . from d earth to b ou n ty. an d con tin ue to h ope th a t th rou g h d ialog u e. M ak ing scien tists o f th e w ea v ers. In m y opinion . w h en w e prod uced a ran ge o f c o l o u r s a n d d y e in g te c h n iq u e s t h a t w ith s to o d th e m o s t s tr in g en t o f q u a lity tests. I w as frustrated w ith the w ay in w h ich top ics w ere d is cu ss ed . or a p pro priately ex otic. I t w a s im p o r t a n t t o m e a t th e tim e I s tar ted th e th ird -w o rld -w om en lis t. an d ira te cu stom ers. a ccess to the In tern et w as lim ited m ain ly to m en an d w om en from the N orth . and international `development’ a n d d em y s tif y p r o ce s s e s th a t h a d b e en in ter -lin k e d w ith w a y s o f life th a t w er e som etim es cen turies old . from apath y to lau gh ter Ð this is h er journ ey . S h e p o in t s p r o u d l y t o t h e s h i r t t h a t h e r h u s b a n d O d e llu w ea r s tod a y . I w a s also frustrated w ith the w ay people represen ted them selves. s h e e n te r t a i n s b u y e r s f r o m E u r o p e . S a-cy b org s. T h e in n a te ca p a b ility a n d sk ill of th e w ea vers m a d e th is seem in g ly im possib le task feasible. In C h in n u r liv e s V e n k a ta v v a . w h o s e h usb an d is on e of a g rou p of six w eavers w h o d ecid ed that they w ould tak e the risk of invitin g an outsid e ag en cy to h elp them b e c o m e s e l f . E v en d iscu ssion lists an d w eb -s ites that claim ed to b e critica l a n d fem in ist som etim es fe ll in to th is trap (p ossib ly. som e w ere too ea g er to b e `id ea l n a tiv e in for m a n ts ’ fo r N orth ern aud ien ces. S outhern participan ts u s e d t h e I n te r n e t a s a n o p p o r t u n ity t o p e r f o r m to a N o r t h e r n a u d i e n c e a n d receive favours for sufficien tly w estern .s u f f ic i e n t . I started the third -w orld w om en d iscussion list partly as a result of m y frustra tion w ith w h at I saw a s a lack o f p olitical com m itm en t a n d ex ch an g e w ith in som e w om en cen tred lists. T h e r e w a s n o fo o d to b e offered to visitors w h o turn ed up on ce the m o r n in g m e a l w a s p a s t . A g roup of d y er-w eavers n ow acted as resource people in w orksh ops held b y us to train oth er g roups. W h e n w e f i r s t v is i t e d C h i n n u r e ig h t y e a r s a g o . I refuse to b e eith er a `victim ’ or a `v ictor’. an d success cam e five years later. a n d o f th e co n tr a d ictio n s a n d in ju s tice s w h i c h e x i s t w it h i n t h e N o r th e r n ed ucation al sy stem . p erform a n ces . w a s . T h e jo u r n e y f r o m ch em ical tech n olog y to the in d igo vat. w h e n I s ta r te d m y fir s t In tern et d iscussion list. T o d a y . w e h a d to h elp th em r einterpret inform ation to suit their ch a n g ed en v iro n m en t a n d res o u r ce s .Cyberfeminism. E v en in th o s e in s ta n ce s w h e re w o m en a n d m e n from the South h ad access. (T h is is the case even now . alth ou gh there ar e m ore m en an d w om en fr o m th e S o u th w h o u s e th e In ter n et). an d con tin ues to b e n ow . In this con text. th at a con sciou s effort s h o u ld b e m a d e to b e c r itic a l a n d s e lfreflex ive. I n la te 1 9 9 5 . they cam e from a p ar ticu lar class b ac k g ro un d . technology. w o m en . to p ar ticip ate in th e effort to em pow er m ore a n d m o r e a r t is a n g r o u p s b y s h a r in g in fo r m a tio n o n a te ch n o lo g y th a t h a s em erg ed from their efforts on the field . O ur clien ts tod ay are con fid en t w eavers w h o com e b ack to u s tim e a n d a g a in . H er ey es are brigh t w ith laug h ter w h en s h e re m em b e r s les s s u cces s ful ex p erim en ts w h ich r es u lted in p a le a n d fu g itiv e colou rs. V e n k a ta v v a w a s u n a b le to o f fer u s a n y h osp itality . M y secon d list. m en an d c h ild r e n f r o m d if f e r e n t b a c k g r o u n d s throug h out the w orld can w ork tog eth er to overcom e in justice. m y ow n lists an d w eb sites d o so. too).

to t w e n ti e t h . or less? A s a n a ctiv is t w o r k in g in d ev e lo p in g tech n olog y for h er I can on ly sa y this: let h e r h a v e a c c e s s t o th e In te r n e t Ð w hy sh ould this b e b arred w h en oth er aspects of m o d er n life a r e im p o s ed . b ecause on those d ay s the m ilk in the villa ge can ’t b e taken to th e city to b e sold . m i g h t a s k : `b u t w h o h a s t h e I n t e r n e t em pow ered ? H ow h as this h appen ed ? H ow r e le v a n t is th is p r o c e s s fo r w o m e n lik e V en katavva?’.or g /vsister/res/ind ex . e x o t i c p la c e f o r u s w i t h w o m e n l i k e V en k atavva flash in g th eir g old n ose pin s. n ot as . a s o n i t s su ccess. V en k a ta v v a h a s s e en th e a d v e n t o f ro ad s .h tm l for som e ex am ples). S o w ou ld m od ern tech n olog y b e w o r k in g t o w a r d s m o r e q u a l it y a n d quan tity in ch oice. Q u e s t i o n s r e le v a n t t o w o m en to w h o m In ter n et te ch n o lo g y is b ein g touted as th e route to em pow erm en t. is th e p ro cess b y w h ich a w o m a n l ik e V e n k a t a v v a c o u l d b e em pow ered b y the In tern et? Annapurna: W o m en w h o tu s sle w ith th e q u es tio n of h ow to d efin e their class an d N orth ern or S o u th e r n id e n tity o n t h e I n te r n e t a r e a p r i v i l e g e d f e w . k ind er. U S aca d em ic in stitutio n s . T h e In tern et w ill b e a m o re co lou rfu l. a n d th e illu sion o f a cce ss that these g ive h er. T h e r e a r e m a n y fe m in is ts a n d a ctiv is ts u s in g th e In t er n et in fa r m o r e ef fe ctiv e w ays. in N o r t h a n d S o u t h . b ut w h at g ood w ill it d o them ? A s it is at presen t. a n d ig n o r a n t. W h eth er th ey h a v e b een successf ul in an y sen se is n ot for m e to say . Is b ein g exposed to such im ag es of them selves g oin g to h elp S ou th ern w om en b y en coura g ing them to fig h t in d ign ity a n d self-respect.w id e w eb (see h ttp://w w w . the In tern et reflects the percep tion s of N orth ern society th at Southern w om en a r e b r o w n . B oth lists w ere for m ed in th e r eco g n ition th a t acts of rep resen tation are p olitical. th en . a n d ou ts id e. a n d telev ision in t h e s h o r t 3 0 y e a r s o f h e r l if e . b a c k w a r d . b ut the focu s of this list is an interactive ex ch an g e o f cr ea tiv e w ritin g in relation to g en d er. In a lan d of fa ulty cab les an d u n p red ictab le electricity su p p ly . O n d a y s th e electricity fails sh e w a tch es th e trad ition al story -tellin g en acted in th e v illag e s qu ar e in s te a d o f th e d is ta n t S a n ta B a r b a r a o n television . fr o m W es ter n c o n s u m e r g o o d s . A altern ative. th e d is ad v an tag es. an d isn ’ t w orth an y m on ey .igc. an d exam ples of these can b e seen all ov er th e w o r ld . ca rs. M od ern tech n ology h old s n o b ogies for h er. sh e h a s ch o ices th a t m an y w om en in th e n o rth d o n ’ t h av e a cc e ss to . telep h o n es. d epiction of them w h ich is a lso w id esp read is tha t they ar e victim s of their cultural h eritag e. T h e tools an d a ccess sh ould be provid ed un con d ition ally . class an d g eog ra ph ical location . I h op e th a t this d ialog u e w ill resu lt in colla b ora tiv e w ork b y a n d f o r w o m e n l iv in g i n u n d e r p r iv ileg ed a n d o p p r ess iv e co n d ition s. B ut let it n ot b e as sum ed that the In tern et w ill em pow er h er. O therw ise this too w ill d o w h at oth er im p o s ed tech n o lo g y h a s d o n e: th e ex act op posite of w h at it purports to d o.apc. a n d u n d er s tan d s th e a d v a n ta g e s . ra ce. h er ch ild ren on ly d rink m ilk on the d a y s tha t the b us d oesn ’t run. O n e of th e m a in p u rp o ses of b oth m y I n t e r n e t d i s c u s s io n li s ts is to f a c il it a te con n ection s b etw een th ird -w orld activists an d sch olars loca ted w ith in . Radhika: V en k a tav va sh ould b e free to d ecid e h ow the In tern et an d oth er related tech n olog ies m igh t be used to b en efit an d em pow er h er an d h er com m u n ity . or w ill it furth er erod e their con fid en ce in th eir fastch ang ing environ m en t? W h at.c e n tu r y d iseases su ch as H IV / A ID S .14 Gender and Development started w ith a sim ilar goal in m ind . T h e qu ality an d qu an tity of the ch oices av ailab le to h er are bas ed as m uch o n t h e f a i l u r e o f t e c h n o lo g y . M y li s ts a r e h u m b le effo rts w h ich form a sm a ll s ec tio n of th e la rg er effor ts b ein g m a d e b y w o m en a ll ov er th e w orld .

T h at is. b ey on d those w e h av e a d d ressed h ere. th ere is still p oten tial for u sin g it in w ay s w h i c h m ig h t s u b v e r t t h e s e a n d f o s t e r d ialogue an d action on various un expected fron ts. W e can n ot say . softw are d esig n. and international `development’ a w ay o f sellin g a so-c a lled su p erio r lifestyle m od elled on the `civilised ’ an d u rb an c e n t r e s o f t h e w o r ld . F or Spivak . In ter n et service provid ers. lang uage an d so on ) clearly d eterm ine w om en ’s use Annapurna: H o w d o w e r e s o lv e t h e c o n t r a d ic t o r y s en tim e n ts o f s ee in g th e In te r n e t a s a p an a cea to th e p rob lem s of th e s ou th . T h erefore I reiterate the question s cen tral to o u r d is cu s sio n in th is a rticle. d e v e l o p m e n t w ork ers in particular w ould n ot reg ard it as fair (or politically correct) to d ow n -p lay the poten tial of the In tern et to em pow er m an y w o m e n li k e V e n k a t a v v a in S o u th a n d N orth . 15 Radhika: M y ex p erien ce of ob serving th e d ev elop m en t of the In tern et. for y our ow n g ood ’. n o t im p o s e a n d p reach w h ile fosterin g fu rth er in eq ualities an d inad equacies. technology. a n d th eref ore p o ten tia lly em p ow erin g to t h e m ? W it h in w h i c h I n te r n e t. a n d a s k read ers to think d eeply an d h on estly ab out the issues they raise. an d usin g this m od e of com m u n ica tion . a n d of a s s ertin g th a t th is d oesn ’t m ean w e d on ’ t w an t it? W e n eed to stud y processes of em pow erm en t an d w ork out h ow it is to b e d on e in the con text of th e In tern et. a n d co alition s. it m ay even b e b a d for u s . the sp eak er. it r em a in s tru e th a t th e N G O s w h o s p ea k w it h a n d f o r w o m e n liv i n g i n p o v e r ty t h r o u g h o u t t h e w o r l d . b ut th is d o es n ot m ean th a t it is co n tex tually em p ow erin g to all w om en in that con tex t. an d to en sure that n ew d ev elopm en ts ar e in itia ted from the insid e so that the ch an g es are acce pted . W o m e n li k e V en tak avva are perfectly capable of m ak ing t h e d e c i s io n s n e e d e d t o e m p o w e r th em s elv es a c co r d in g to th e ir e v e ry d a y n eed s. W om en from th e first w orld n eed an sw ers to these question s too. w h eth er rich or poor. W h e th er lo ca ted in th e N o r th e r n h e m i sph ere or th e S outh. W ill w om en a ll ov er th e w orld b e able (allow ed ) to use tech n olog ies un d er con d ition s that are d efin ed b y them . h av e to n eg otiate an d en gag e in d ialogue w ith the pow erful in the N orth from position s of lesser pow er. 20 A pril 1999). cu ltu ral.org. `H ow can w e learn from b elow ?’ . H ow ever. Policies d esign ed to b e em pow erin g s h o u ld a id a n d en a b le . an d political structures? T h es e q u e stio n s can n o t b e ad d r es s ed o n l y in r e la t io n to w o m e n o f t h e th ir d w orld . g lob a l stru ctu res of p ow er (th rou g h th eir `in vis ib le’ co n tro l o f th e m ark et. b y w eaving in the d ifferen t positive thread s w h ich exist in the fab ric (m od eratorgl@ w orld b an k . a s w e ll a s t h e w om en them selves. T h e id ea is to en ter into a society an d learn its trad ition s from insid e. W h ile case stud ies ab oun d for the f a il u r e o f t h is p r o c e s s . `I w on ’t g ive you the In tern et. . T h e In tern et h as its `h ead quarters’ in the first w orld .Cyberfeminism. of th in k in g that on th e con trary . to tra n sform social. th e k ey qu estion th at em erg es in th e co n tex t o f h e r w o r k w ith w o m en in B an g lad esh is `H ow d o w e a p p roa ch the b ottom ?’. S p iv a k s e e s a n e e d t o d o `i n v is i b le m en d ing ’ of th e n ative fab ric. T h is situ ation of u n eq u al ec on om ic an d so cia l pow er relation s b etw een the N orth an d the S ou th p resen ts ch allen g es for people such a s m y s e l f w h o a r e t r y i n g t o d e s ig n electron ic spaces of d ialog ue an d activism . I w ould like to paraph rase (n ot w ith out r es e r v a tio n s s im ila r t o t h o s e v o ic e d b y A n n apurn a in h er rejoin d er) a con trib ution m a d e t o th e G e n d e r a n d L a w th e m a tic group 10 at the W orld B an k .b a s e d con texts w ill w om en of lesser m aterial an d cu ltu ra l p r iv ileg e w ith in `g lo b a l’ p o w er rela tio n s b e ab le to d evelo p co lla b o rativ e w ork . seein g w h a t tr a d itio n s ca n b e w o r k ed w ith to slow ly im prove the situation . is th a t w h ile there a re h ierarch ies of pow er em b ed d ed in the very con struction an d d esign of In tern et culture. in un pred ictab le w ay s.

virg inia. w e are ex ch an g in g n o n trad ition al creative w ritin g . S evera l `r ea l-life’ b od ies also com m en ted on this article. g rap h ics .bg s u . Bow ling Green State University.lin e ’ r e fe r s to a c tiv itie s carried out via the In tern et or e-m ail.w orld b an k . E (1978) Orientalism. If cy b erfem in is ts w a n t to en sure that the In tern et is em pow erin g . .c y b o r g s a n d third -w orld w om en . B ut it is also a process w h ich `stretch es’ social relation s. 2 T h e In tern et is a w orld -w id e n etw ork of co m p u ters w h ich com m u n ica te v ia a n a g r e e d s e t o f I n te r n e t p r o t o c o l . a n d th e ed ito r of Gender and Development . Pan theon B ooks. Bowling Green. T h e w orld -w ide w eb is a sub set of the In ter n et w h ich u s es a com b in a tio n o f tex t. a re on ly a m iniscule part of the b attle. 3 I u s e th is te rm to d en o te `th e r a p id ly d ev elo p in g p r o ce s s o f co m p lex in te r con n ection s b etw een societies. p a p e r p r e s e n t e d a t a sem inar on In d ian textiles in 1995. D astkar Andhra. co n n e ctio n to a n In te rn e t S ervice P rovider) to acces s the In tern et. L on d on . in stitution s an d ind ivid uals w orld w ide. telep h on e m o d e m .co m .villag e. R a d h ik a G a jja la a ls o w is h es to than k all the Spoon C ollective m em b ers as w ell as the m em b ers of the various lists that sh e (co-)m od erates. It is a process w h ich involves ¼ sh rinking d istan ces th roug h a d ram atic red uction in the tim e tak en Ð eith er ph y sically or 7 8 9 10 R efe re n ce s Said .ed u/~rad h ik T h e S p o o n C o l le c t i v e i s o p e r a t e d t h r o u g h t h e I n s t i tu t e f o r A d v a n c e d T ec h n o lo g y in th e H u m a n itie s a t th e U n iversity of V irg inia. T h ey con trib ute sig n ifican tly to our un d erstan d ing of on lin e ex isten ce . it is n ot en o ug h to `g et con n ected ’ a n d set u p w eb sites an d m a in ta in e-m a il-d iscu ss io n lists. G ettin g `con n ected ’ m ean s acquirin g the n e c e s s a r y t e c h n o lo g y ( c o m p u te r . rem ovin g the r e la t io n s h i p s w h ic h g o v e r n o u r e v er y d a y liv e s fr o m lo c a l co n te x ts to g lobal on es’ (T om lin son 1997) .b g su. India. rep res en tatio n a lly Ð to cr oss th em . A (1997 ) In tern a tion al C om m un ication an d G lobalisation . F o r in f o r m a t io n o n s a . E ven a s w e collab orate on projects such a s th is a rticle.ed u . In tern et b row s in g s oftw a re. Radhika Gajjala is an Assistant Professor in the D epartm ent of Interpersonal Comm unication.ed u E lectron ic n etw ork s w h ose particip an ts d iscuss a particu lar topic or topics. E -m a il: r ad h ik@ bg n et. U S A . Sag e. S ee h ttp://ern ie. C arolin e Sw eetm an .16 Gender and Development o f th e In tern et. includ ing fam ily m em b ers of b oth w riters. for co m m e n tin g o n s ev e ra l d r a fts o f th is article. on sa-cy b org s. N ew Y ork. received on 29 A pril 1999 . Ohio. Q u oted fr o m a p o st to th e g en d er-la w d iscu ssion list. E-mail: annapurnam@yahoo. School of C om m unication Studies.bgsu. J (1 9 9 7) `C ultural globalisation and cultural im perialism ’ in M ohamm adi. A lly n a n d B acon . T h e te r m `o n . a u d io an d v id eo m a terial to provid e inform ation on m an y sub jects. D r.org . V ita n za . cu ltu res. o r cy berd iv a 1 6 @ h otm a il. U zram m a (1995) `Cotton handlooms -industry o f th e fu tu r e ’. T h e latter task s.edu/~radhik Annapurna M amidipudi is a Field W orker. Secunderabad. see h ttp://lists. T om lin so n . W eb s ite: http://ernie. B oston. A V en k a tesh . w h ile n ecessary .com 4 5 6 N otes 1 T h e w riters than k D r. in relation to o u r p e r s o n a l/ p r o f es s io n a l/ p o litic a l con flicts an d d ilem m a s. M elissa Spirek . g en d er-law @ jaz z. so m aking the w orld sm aller an d in a certain sen se brin g ing h um an bein g s `closer’ to one an oth er. V (1 9 99 ) Cyberreader .