Fandom + Piracy Keynote: “Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction”

04 Mar, 2021

Fandom + Piracy Keynote: “Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction”

Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction: The Pirate Function and Postcolonialism

Piracy Keynote Lecture by Kavita Philip, The President's Excellence Chair in Network Cultures at the University of British Columbia and a Professor of English with the UBC Department of English Language and Literatures.

Fandom + Piracy website here.
Register for the Zoom link here!

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The series will be recorded and available on BCNM's YouTube channel.

Video and Transcript Now Online

Click here to watch the recorded lecture.

Click here to view the transcript.

Pirates who threaten to invert power relations through appropriating things less tangible than ships and bodies have become a growing concern for the managers of twenty-first-century economic globalization. Appropriating, modifying, and sharing a range of less concrete but equally crucial objects, intellectual property “robbers” today traffic in images, music, and software. Although business analysts regard this as a novel problem, supposedly precipitated by the unprecedented importance of “knowledge” as a force of economic production, historians of science and law tell stories of intellectual property theft that predate the current IPR discourse by two centuries. Anti-piracy discourses now frequently intersect with anti-terrorist security discourses, where both pirates and terrorists function as threats to free markets and civilized nations. Clearly, even while it participates in a long history, the current discourse of piracy is specific to our present historical and economic moment and illuminates particular characteristics of the emerging forms of global informational capitalism.

What forms of globalized citizenship and personhood are being shaped via the emerging legal discourses of intellectual property, on both sides of the struggle for access to new forms of information? In Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction: The Pirate Function and Postcolonialism, I read the 21st-century debate over “sharing,” “openness,” and “freedom” in software, music, and film not as an entirely unique and unprecedented moment, but rather, via a genealogical understanding of its legal, cultural, and political-economic conditions of enunciation.


Lou Silhol-Macher, Ph.D candidate in German at University of California, Berkeley.

Vincente Perez, Ph.D candidate in Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at University of California, Berkeley.

Jaclyn Zhou, Ph.D student in Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at University of California, Berkeley.

Hosted by Abigail De Kosnik, Associate Professor in the Berkeley Center for New Media and the department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at University of California, Berkeley.

About Virtual Mini-Series Fandom & Piracy 2021

Fandom + Piracy website here.

Fandom and piracy are two modes of countercultural computing, alternative media, distributed creativity, and copying culture. While critics have often characterized them as illegitimate or even criminal, fandom and piracy have played a crucial role in the evolution of the Internet. Though marginalized by the media industries, legal establishment, and academia, the work of fans and pirates is central to how we interact with media.

In this conference mini-series, we will hear from scholars whose work enables us to understand how fandom and piracy have attracted millions of participants and become akin to social movements, how they have given rise to digital platforms that both augment and defy the corporatization of media production and the web, and how race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality operate within fan and pirate communities.

This event will consist of two keynote lectures and two panels taking place online on four consecutive Thursdays (February 25, March 4, March 11, and March 18, 2021).

About Kavita Philip

Kavita Philip is a historian of science and technology who has written about nineteenth-century environmental knowledge in British India, information technology in post-colonial India, and the intersections of art, science fiction, and social activism with science and technology. She is author of Civilizing Natures (2004), and Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction (forthcoming, MIT Press), as well as co-editor of five volumes curating new interdisciplinary work in radical history, art, activism, computing, and public policy. She holds the President’s Excellence Chair in Network Cultures at The University of British Columbia, where she is Professor of English and (by courtesy) Geography.


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