Tequiologies: reclaiming the right to a dignified future

Paola Ricaurte

Carrier Bag

Visionen von zukünftigen Gegenwarten

Sprache :


care carrier-bag colonialism communities embodiment extractivism healing imagination indigenous oppression practices

We are living in a historical moment in which socio-technical systems are being used more than ever as amplifiers of power. Hegemonic technologies reinforce social asymmetries, widening gaps in wealth and knowledge. Moreover, technologies are also assembled into complex systems that include institutions, norms, practices and values that define certain ways of living, working, interacting and ultimately existing in the world.

Artificial intelligence plays a central role in the current reproduction of power imbalances. The AI race is about the narratives and tools to continue to maintain the structures of power and the possibility of extending the extraction of value into every possible sphere. In this way, many forms of existence are displaced and eroded. Our critical reflection on artificial intelligence should focus on eradicating all forms of violence associated with the imposition of AI as the preferred mediator of social relations.

This collection of resources is intended to inspire a journey of reflection and action for our collective dreams beyond AI. These texts, written by thinker-activists from the territory of Abya Yala, have shaped my vision and sensibility about technology and the relationships it embodies. I see these pieces as an assemblage that connects ontology (what we think about reality), epistemology (how we know), ethics (the principles about how we should live), and praxis (how we enact, practice, embody, or realize these principles). Together, these pieces form a compass for thinking critically about technology.

The first stop on this journey is a piece written by Yásnaya Aguilar. Yánaya is a Mixe writer and activist for the defense of linguistic rights in Mexico. In her piece, A modest proposal to save the world, she reflects on how imaginaries about technology often share a particular vision: progress and modernity. Technologies are then developed for the purpose of economic development. However, this vision is based on the idea that Nature should be used and transformed to serve the goals of growth and expansion, which is against the possibilities of sustaining life on Earth. Yásnaya asks us to widen our knowledge of technology and discuss ways of thinking about and developing technology that go beyond capitalism. To achieve this goal, she suggests building tequiologies. Tequio is an ancient practice of communal work based on a reciprocal relationship among the members of a community. People of the community organize tequios to achieve common good: building a school, cleaning a street, painting a house, organizing a party. In the Andean region communal work is called minga or minka. In Brazil, mutirao. This pre-Hispanic practice is at the heart of what relational ontology entails: we are all connected, we can achieve things together, what you do affects me and what I do affects you. If this basic principle is broken, then the basic means of sustaining life is broken. This is what happened with Western civilization:

"It is a myth of the West’s choosing: perpetual economic growth, advancing through a digestive system of sorts, one that uses technology as one of its core components. In its churn, ecosystems became goods; people, mere consumers. The myth turned the world into a place increasingly inhospitable to human life"(Aguilar, 2021).

Yasnaya's thinking reflects the relational ontologies of the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala. This thinking is also rooted in the experience of struggles over territory, language, water, air, mountains and rivers. Indigenous peoples have historically denounced the role of the state as the main source of violence in alliance with corporations in the name of development. Many peoples are resisting and making visible the impact of the extractivist model on their lives and destinies. One way to explain the importance of this historical struggle for territory is based on the idea that there is an unbreakable continuity between bodies and territories, and that the protection of the body-territory is fundamental to achieving a dignified life. Moira Millán, a Mapuche activist, in her text Body-territory and good living (sumak kawsay) explains this notion of territory and how it is linked to a reflection on technology:

"Why do we talk about body-territories? What is our relationship with the earth? How do we understand technology? What is the good living [buen vivir]? I learned from the knowledge of the chachay that technology must be loving and caring to the land. It is possible to create a technology of life, as opposed to the technology of capital, to the extractive biotechnology that lethally manipulates the essence of the seeds, in short, to the technologies of death. To explain this idea, I will begin by telling you what we mean by body-territories [cuerpos-territorios]. The territory defines and determines us, we recognize ourselves through the gaze of the earth, Mapu, she recognizes us too. We inhabit a territory, and that territory inhabits us, walks with us, travels in our being, in our ways and manners" (Millá, 2022).

As we know, the advancement of technology continues to reproduce the fundamental principles of extractivism by transferring resources from one location to another. Contesting extractivism and dispossession mediated by technologies is an ethico-political program to prevent the dismantling of our dreams and the expansion of violence at scale. Embracing epistemic disobedience against epistemic violence, and opposing the colonization of subjectivity is also a form of re-existence.

Sursiendo, a feminist collective based in Chiapas, Mexico, proposes the notion of digital communality grounded in a permaculture ethic. Digital communality "highlights the socio-technical power structures in the design, extraction, production, use and disposal of digital technologies and their relationship to the environment". Sursiendo understands that "politics is not separate from social life, and social life is in relation to the environment". This approach combines ethics with praxis, critically thinking and practically transforming our relationship with technology, inviting us to take responsibility for the impact of our technological consumption and practices.

This carrier bag is just a small sample of the possibilities for building technologies of radical care. The possibility of dreaming beyond AI implies dismantling hegemonic narratives and identifying the root causes of problems, and from there constructing ways to eradicate them. This carrier bag is a fabric woven from the dialogues, affections, experiences and sensitivities of many sisters who help us to decolonise our physical, cognitive and affective body-territories, thus opening spaces for our collective dreams and reclaiming our right to a dignified future.

Paola Ricaurte

Paola Ricaurte is Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Digital Culture at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and co-founder of the Tierra Común network. She coordinates the Latin American and Caribbean hub of the Feminist Network for Research in Artificial Intelligence, f<A+i>r.