Cultural Theory: Migration, boundaries, and algorithms

Date & Time:

9th March, 16:00


Online event; the link will be sent to those who register.


Presentations by Mutale Nkonde (Columbia University/AI for the People) and Guillermo Martín-Sáiz (Washington University St. Louis) on migration, boundaries and algorithms.

Mutale Nkonde (Columbia University/AI for the People) What Does Black Have To Do With It?

Overview: Using the Racial Literacy in Tech framework, Mutale Nkonde outlines how color-blindness in computational design leds to the development of slave auctions in the NFT space, which are rebranded rather than banned and kept on the platform. Nkonde argues that the willful indifference towards how technical systems impact Black life requires a cultural intervention. The problem is racism not data and can only be solved if we engage in the work of dismantling the systems that sustain racial injustice in society.

Guillermo Martín-Sáiz (Washington University St. Louis) Schisms and Boundaries: Notes on Islamic Sectarianism

This presentation focuses on how mosques in Barcelona seek support from Islamic organizations to respond to systematic surveillance and pervasive suspicion. Similarly, I examine how such organizations provide mosques with discursive repertoires to engage in public debates concerning coexistence with other religious and non-religious communities. Thus, I also discuss the impact of these repertoires—which find ecological and institutional niches within mosques and inform proselytizing—in the rise of sectarianism across local borders. Moreover, I address how Muslims in Barcelona position themselves vis-à-vis mosques and Islamic organizations in their interactions across everyday environments such as homes and workplaces. Specifically, I am interested in how my interlocutors express support to—and challenge the boundaries between—multiple mosques and organizations for reasons that, far from being doctrinally limited, are the outcome of ordinary endeavors and circumstances.

About the speakers:

Born in Zambia, raised in the United Kingdom and a long time resident of Brooklyn, Mutale Nkonde has been studying the intersection of race and technology for the past 10 years. In 2109 she co-authored a report called Advancing Racial Literacy in Tech. During this year she also led the introduction of the Algorithmic Accountability Act to the US House of Representatives that was reintroduced in 2022. In 2020 she led a social media inoculation strategy against race based disinformation. In 2021 part of a team that won a New York Emmy for a short film on facial recognition and shareholder activism. In 2022 she produced Blackness Unbound an experiential short film that was submitted to the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space and is currently going through the festival circuit. She is a member of the Tik Tok content moderation advisory board.

AI For the People Website:

Blackness Unbound Film:


Guillermo Martín-Sáiz is a social anthropologist interested in questions of comparative religion and politics and debates concerning transnational flows of knowledge, space- and place-making, conflict and conflict resolution, and different forms of reasoning and argumentation. He has experience conducting fieldwork with Muslim communities between South Asia and Europe, where he investigates how they participate in the making of increasingly interconnected and diverse societies.