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Kuna Indigenous Media and Knowledge in the Darien


“Kuna Indigenous Media and Knowledge in the Darién” analyzes Indigenous knowledge and infrastructures conceived as media and how the two converge in the Darién tropical rainforest, a region in the Americas at the center of the colonial/modern world facing the highest threat of macro-infrastructural development since colonial times. The Darién is not only the physical background to social and historical processes that occurred during colonization; it has played an active role in processes of territorial dispossession, economic exploitation, and dehumanization of the colonial other. My initial research in this region led to the creation of a film, ‘Walking Kids of Chocó,’ that explores the parallel between the mobility practices of Kuna children and the absence of the Pan-American Highway in this same region; specifically walking as a constituent element of Indigenous media and mud as a form of natureculture resistance. Mud is an elemental media that imposes, excludes, and promotes specific modes of inhabiting the rainforest; I have invented the term mudware to describe both natural and cultural interactions that modulate some flows (of life, commerce, migration, technologies, etc.) while impeding others to promote Indigenous ways of life. Indigenous people in the Darién have derailed, delayed, prevented, and subverted foreign projects’ investments for centuries by understanding the complexities of the Darién terrain and Western interests. The absence of the Highway in Darién signals systematic failures of conquest in the region that permitted the Kuna people to experience an alternative present of unique cohabitation of old and new technologies and knowledge. “Kuna Indigenous Media and Knowledge in the Darién” was produced using an interdisciplinary approach to critical practice, fieldwork, and sociality, bringing together Indigenous media and activism, Latin American modernity and coloniality, as well as infrastructure and media archeology theories. It concludes that a profound understanding of the relationship between the Darién, Indigenous resistance, media, and infrastructures has permitted the Kuna people’s adaptability.

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