Colloquia 2021-2022: The Pirate Function


Thursday, March 31, 2022
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

In-person:  Dodson Room (Room 302, 3rd floor, IKBLC) (*)
Online: via Zoom

Registration is required. Please complete the form below.

(*) The event has reached its maximum number of in-person participants. You are welcome to join this talk online, via Zoom. You will receive the meeting details after submitting your registration.



Digital media’s reproducibility and peer-interaction have shaped new forms of technological sociality. Through diverse studies in unauthorized reproduction, I have been exploring the cultural, legal, and political-economic significance of legal and illegal sharing practices over the past decade. Why are digital pirates worth thinking with? In order to gain some historical perspective on what seems like a very recent phenomenon, I go back to early modern histories of trade, colonial law, and maritime piracy. Pursuing these very broad frames, I have found myself contending with an ecology of thieves and a multitude of sharing technologies, rather than simply individual pirate copiers and the question of where the tort lies in cases of digital theft. These diverse studies in unauthorized production have left me with a model of the mutual constitution of media reproduction and distribution, looting and order, the licit and the illicit. In this lecture, I share the paths, taken and not taken, in this project and reflect on the nature of property law, digital personhood, and interdisciplinary knowledge production.


Speaker Bio

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 the 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.


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