Helen Hester

Engineers or Hackers? Technological Systems and Political Change

Monday 1 July, 2019 - 7pm
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía
In collaboration with

Inside the framework of the programme In the Context of 8M and the Feminist Tide. A Deafening Murmur, which seeks to critically rethink present-day feminisms, Helen Hester, researcher and founder of the collective Laboria Cuboniks, will give a lecture on the XF Manifesto Xenofeminism. A Politics for Alienation, which reconsiders the feminist political project. The lecture will be followed by a discussion sharing the experiences and conclusions stemming from the collaboratory Bio-trans-lab. An Open Laboratory of Hackable Gyna(eco)logy Related to Xenofeminist Practices, carried out in the Museo Reina Sofía, as the techno-political activation of the xenofeminst practices Hester approaches in her work. 

The XF Manifesto, published simultaneously in thirteen languages in 2015 by Laboria Cuboniks, advocates the strategic use of existing technologies to completely redesign the world, and in her latest work, Xenofeminism (Polity, 2018), Hester underscores the main theoretical ideas in the Manifesto: anti-naturalism, technomaterialism and gender abolitionism.

Setting out from a transfeminist stance, the researcher intertwines these three concepts, putting forward an analysis of science and technology as spaces of conflict which, in essence, are neither neutral nor beneficial; yet nor are they inherently patriarchal, sexist or racist. Rather, they are a territory to conquer. Nature is thus traversed by technology and social aspects, making it malleable and easier to resignify and reconstruct. There is a need for large-scale collective social organisation in order to, paraphrasing Hester, reappropriate connective patriarchal networks.     

Although the Manifesto and the work of this author are rooted in the approaches of cyber feminism from the 1990s and the contributions of Donna Haraway and other authors, they also return to some of the theories of second-wave radical feminism, such as those formulated by Shulamith Firestone, and their argument that destiny does not have to be determined by biology. With a gaze situated in the present, Hester ties together these potentials with current technopolitical practices, such as the gynaecology projects DIT (Do It Together; namely, self-managed and collective forms of organisation, work, care and learning), the project developed by Klau Kinky and Paula Pin, Gynepunk, and those related to the emancipation of hormone production, such as Open Sources Gendercodes.


Helen Hester (UK, 1983) is associate professor of Media and Communications at the University of West London. Her research encompasses digital technology, reproductive politics and the future of work, and she is the author of Beyond Explicit: Pornography and the Displacement of Sex (SUNY Press, 2014), Fat Sex: New Directions in Theory and Activism (Routledge, 2015) and Xenofeminism (Polity, 2018). She is also a member of the international feminist collective Laboria Cuboniks, made up of people from different spheres of knowledge: visual arts, programming, philosophy, archaeology and design.