In an October 2018 article in The Guardian, Harvard lecturer Siddharth Kara describes the back-breaking work of searching for cobalt by 15-year-old Elodie, who is exposed to toxic dust in the process. Elodie sells her cobalt to Chinese distributors who export and refine the mineral in China then sell it to tech companies to power our digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. These devices are then used to power important online activism, including disability justice work. As Elodie and 35,000 other Congolese children negotiate dangerous working conditions that impair their health, Western consumers enjoy the fruits of their debilitating labor to fight for their own rights in the ableist infrastructure of the West. What might be possible if the supply chain was no longer imagined as linear but circular? How might a new set of relations between consumers and laborers create the kind of advocacy that would force corporate entities to change their policies if they have to be accountable to both groups? I argue that closing the supply chain into a loop is essential as it effectively links Environmental, Labor, Racial, Gender, and Disability Justice movements to each other in a way that ripples beyond any one movement. Using a Black Feminist Disability Framework this project examines the debilitating impact of mineral harvesting on the Black Congolese youth who do this work, and the digital disability activism their labor enables in the West.
Dr. Moya Bailey's work focuses on marginalized groups’ use of digital media to promote social justice as acts of self-affirmation and health promotion. She is interested in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine. She currently curates the #transformDH Tumblr initiative in Digital Humanities. She is also the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies and the Program in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University.