Infrapolitics and Mass Digitation

What is infrapolitics

Infrapolitics is suggested by James C. Scott (Bourbeau et al., 2018). He explains how subordinating people confront authority and force through being lazy, dissimulation, pretending to follow, and avoiding sanctions (Scott, 2008). The mass is considered subordinating because they are underprivileged against the power. Their style of resistance becomes art and weapons (Scott, 2008). In mass digitization, the subordinates are people who have difficulties accessing resources from institutions due to copyright regulations, unequal access, lack of legal market etc. (Thylstrup, 2019). 

How infrapolitics relates to digital humanities

Imagine if you were writing an academic paper, but you could not acquire the material because the database was exclusive to the law school students from the top university. It was the only creditable source that was authorized by the state. Outsiders have to pay hundreds to download a single document, even for educational purposes. This was what I experienced last year. I was studying inequality, then I learned it while trying to find supporting materials for my research. My solution was to spend a few bucks and get an authorized account for 24 hours, which could be called a “lease.”

The former Director and President of the LSE, Craig Calhoun, says that “new technologies facilitate new forms of access to knowledge (Graham et al., 2018).” The emergence of technology and digitation reshape the distribution of information (Thylstrup, 2019). In the past, knowledge was printed and delivered as books, and the industry was underdeveloped. The subordinate groups were unlikely to be educated because it was burning money. Being educated was the privilege of elites, while knowledge and resource were exclusive. Higher education has been generalized today, but the barriers and inequality still exist in various forms. To this extent, the use of technology plays a role in this redistribution process (Thylstrup, 2019). Infrastructures, including shadow libraries, are expected to eliminate injustice and gaps and attain universal access to knowledge and resources (Thylstrup, 2019).

Shadow Libraries

People are empowered to download digital books, journals, media and enormous without restrictions, cost, time-wasting etc. The mass digitation brings unhindered access, velocity, and the globalization of information flow (Thylstrup, 2019). It interrupts the current system and reconstructs channels and networks for equal distribution (Thylstrup, 2019). In this way, people interpret collectivism and build social relations through exchanging information for free (Thylstrup, 2019). 

The dilemma and debates

The infrapolitics of mass digitation also brings up moral and legal issues (Thylstrup, 2019). It violates copyrights and challenges the rules. But who made the regulation? If the existing system was unreasonable and only benefited the privileged, should the subordinates keep obeying? It is not binary logic, and it is hard to decide whether it is right or wrong (Thylstrup, 2019). The point of infrapolitics is to attach importance to access based on the philosophy of equity and equality. It criticizes neoliberalism and post-colonialism while copyright regulations and the market cannot achieve total access (Thylstrup, 2019). Yet intellectual properties ought to be preserved. The activists might be labelled as mobs or thefts allocating unauthorized resources to grey zones. These issues remain open to debate, and there is still room for discussion — who is entitled to own knowledge?


Bourbeau, P., & Ryan, C. (2018). Resilience, resistance, infrapolitics and enmeshment. European Journal of International Relations, 24(1), 221–239.

Graham, M., Ferrari, F., Chib, A., Bentley, C. M., & Smith, M. L. (2018). Shadow libraries. The MIT Press. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from 

Monoskop. (n.d.). Shadow libraries – monoskop. Shadow Libraries. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from 

Scott, J. C. (2008). Weapons of the Weak. yale university Press.

Thylstrup, N. B. (2019). The licit and illicit nature of mass digitization. The politics of mass digitization (). The MIT Press.

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