October 18-20, 2019
Prime Produce, NYC

Angela Arias Zapata

I am a PhD candidate at the Media, Culture, and Communication Department at New York University. My research is about media infrastructures in rural areas in South America (specifically in Colombia), the neocolonial dynamics that take place at the level of state and corporate power, and their subsequent clash with communities claiming their rights to collective land ownership over ancestral territories –indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

My academic intervention seeks to contribute to the understanding of the relationship between social movements and media in the Global South, through the analysis of media infrastructures as sites of contention in which otherness is both reproduced and resisted. Apart from being a researcher and educator in media studies, I am a publisher. I received a Master's degree in Publishing from the University of Salamanca in Spain and a Bachelor's degree in Literary Studies from the National University of Colombia. Currently, I lead the independent editorial project Himpar Editores.


Media Infrastructures and Racialized Territorial Formations: Perspectives from the South

In this talk, I will analyze the distinctions between rural and urban areas in Colombia in terms of their articulation around broadcasting and telecommunication infrastructures, in a period of simultaneous democratization and economic liberalization in Latin America. In the case of Colombia, official narratives indicate that the distinction between urban and rural is something municipalities decide; a consequence of the democratization process in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the subsequent recognition of regions' political and administrative autonomy. The transformation of policies around access to telecommunication technologies at the onset of Neoliberalism was the foundation for the current legislation of internet services. It was a measure of modernization in the same way in which Internet access is today. Telecommunication policies were part of the intention to not only overcome the internal armed conflict but achieving progress in regions seen as backward. Pacification and development were part of the same intention and communication infrastructures were a means to achieve those two purposes.

In contrast, I will speak about the history of the indigenous radio system, created in the midst of this political and economic conjuncture, with the purpose of supporting the struggle for the recovery of ancestral lands. I analyze this process using the notion of claims making, according to which communities formulated new narratives about the colonial past (Joan Rappaport) and linked them to a public international debate on rights as needs and the question of who deserves public assistance ( Wendy Wolford); as well as the idea that they used the framework of the global ethno-racial field to align with the multiculturalism embedded in the Latin American legislations created in the 1990s (Tannia Paschel), to achieve the recognition and protection of their citizenship rights (Nancy Gray Postero). However, I engage critically with this perspective, by reading the engagement with media infrastructures for the liberation of ancestral lands from the standpoint of what indigenous communities in the Cauca region have defined as proper communication, which entails the inseparable connection between a community and the territory it inhabits.