The Geopolitics of Open (Culture Machine)



The Geopolitics of Open addresses issues of difference, ideology and infrastructure across the stratified geographies of open access publishing. It examines the construction of power and inequality in our scholarly practices and discourses around the open. How can we contextualise open access, as a contingent and politically-laden concept, within particular historical and regional contexts and socio-political struggles? This will involve asking questions about how notions of openness have been implicit in processes of global knowledge appropriation and exploitation in a postcolonial neoliberal context.

The three exploratory papers that make up this panel all pursue this attempt to regionalise and, in the process, politicise how open access infrastructures form and for whom they become beneficial, both financially and socially. They share a commitment to articulating a scaled down geo-politics that asks of publishing infrastructures: where and by what means? And also consider how varied institutional contexts, from multistate formations like the European Union, to urban and regional universities in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, start to shape the varied epistemological and political geographies of situated open access practices.

The Knowledge G.A.P (Geopolitics of Academic Production), a research collective dedicated to foregrounding the marginalization of Global South researchers across diverse forms of academic knowledge production, offer a timely critique of the ‘EU Horizon 2020 Open Research Europe’ tender process. The collective lays bare how structural inequalities and exclusions, particularly falling upon knowledge producers and holders of the Global South, inhere in the tender’s promotion of an infrastructural capacity that aligns with the metrics (equally citational and financial) of for-profit scholarly publishing. They also pause on how ‘open’ infrastructures are multidimensional, relationship-building phenomena that move through a differential geos—earths and linguistic worlds where there are horizons of justice, ethics, and inclusion when it comes to building and participating in such infrastructures of access. Gabriela Méndez Cota extends this consideration of the situated politics of open infrastructures. She offers her own scalar and situated critique of how a feminist driven infrastructural care can start to reorient the dichotomous tension present across Mexican academic production, that between ‘impact on knowledge’ and ‘impact on society.’ Her offering is in conversation with Ángel Octavio Álvarez Solís’ reflection on the historical and philosophical ties that bind the managerial fate of the contemporary Mexican university system. As colleagues in the Department of Philosophy of the Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México, they articulate how there is an interwoven linguistic, epistemological, ethical commitment shaping the state of university knowledge(s) in Mexico—Anglophone metrics and State-led policy development. As Álvarez Solís has it, ‘the horizon of the university today is one in which professors can become both aristocrats without nobility and proletarians without a class.’

This panel lays the groundwork for more in-depth studies and conversations about the infrastructural geographies of open access publishing activities—alliances to be made and unmade. This is an opportunity, as Méndez Cota insists, to ‘become more responsible for the other’ through the design, maintenance, and future-oriented repair of the human geographies underlying our open access infrastructural politics and capacities.

Gabriela Méndez Cota and Rafico Ruiz
Culture Machine


Gabriela Méndez Cota is a full-time academic in the Department of Philosophy at Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de México. She holds an MA and a PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has explored technoscientific controversies from the theoretical perspectives that inform cultural studies, including deconstruction, post-Marxism and feminism. In 2011 she contributed an edited book on agriculture and the humanities to the online
project Living Books About Life (OHP). Her first single-authored academic monograph, Disrupting Maize: Food, Biotechnology and Nationalism in Contemporary Mexico (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), focuses on the ethical challenges posed by corporate agricultural biotechnology to the Mexican
national imaginary. In 2014 she fundraised for and subsequently led a collective artistic research project around quelites, or edible weeds that spontaneously grow in the Mesoamerican agroecological system called “milpa”. This project resulted in a web-based recipe book ( She co-edits, with Rafico Ruiz, the journal Culture Machine, and coordinates the area of Critical Ecology at 17, Instituto de Estudios Críticos (, where she recently organized a colloquium on critical theory and climate change (“Me extingo, luego pienso”). Her current research interests are queer theory, ecological thought and environmental violence in Mexico.

Dr. Ángel Octavio Álvarez Solís is Full Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at Iberomericana University, Mexico City. PhD in Moral and Political Philosophy by the Autonomous University Metropolitan, Mexico, and the author of La república de la melancolía (Buenos Aires, 2015) and Infrapolítica y ética menor (México, 2018). Research interests include political thought, Italian critical theory, deconstruction and critique of intelectual reason.

Knowledge GAP
Knowledge GAP is a volunteer ran research collective investigating the underrepresentation of Global South academic knowledge in the global publishing system and the various mechanisms through which such structures of inequality and exclusion are produced and reproduced in paradigms of openness.

Denisse Albornoz has a BA in International Development and Sociology from the University of Toronto. Her research and advocacy work in Toronto and Peru has focused on taking a critical perspective on open access and open science, by investigating power relations in science and technology through the lens of youth-led citizen science projects. She was also part of the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network, a research network looking at the intersections of open science and sustainable development in the Global South. As part of Knowledge GAP, she is investigating the implications of emerging open science policies for global inequality in science.

George (Zhiwen) Chen is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto Scarborough completing a degree in Management International Business with a stream in Economics. He is interested in the economics of development as well as the modalities of academic knowledge production. George had worked as a metadata assistant at Bioline international, facilitating open access and article publishing. As part of Knowledge GAP, he is currently researching the mergers and acquisitions of large academic publishers, particularly their purchase of services supporting knowledge production.

Tasneem Mewa is an undergraduate student in the Centre for Critical Development studies at the University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC) pursuing a specialist in International Development Studies and a minor in Economics. Her work at the Knowledge G.A.P. involves working with the ‘Mapping the Geopolitics of Knowledge Production in Development Studies’ team to identify if and how development studies academic journals perpetuate representational and geographic biases. They tackle this question by analysing data such as institutional affiliations, and hope to further examine this phenomenon through authorship, editorial board membership, and other bibliographic data.