• Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities

      Risam, Roopika (2015-01-01)
      This article examines the relationship between intersectionality and the digital humanities. Intersectionality offers a critical approach to debates between theory and method in the field, transcending simplistic hack vs. yack binaries. This article situates debates over difference in the digital humanities within the context of the culture wars within the U.S. academy during the 1980s and 1990s, locating the stakes for diversity in the digital humanities. It surveys digital humanities projects, outlining the need for alternate histories of the digital humanities told through intersectional lenses. Finally, the article proposes ways of looking forward towards the deeper intersectional analysis needed to expand intellectual diversity in the field and move difference beyond the margins of the digital humanities.
    • Decolonizing The Digital Humanities In Theory And Practice

      Risam, Roopika (2018-05-01)
      In recent years, the question of what it means to “decolonize” digital humanities has been broached by scholars engaged in both postcolonial digital humanities and #TransformDH, strands of the field that have pushed for greater attention to digital humanities projects and methods that foreground intersectional engagement with race, gender, class, sexuality, nation, disability, and other axes of identity that shape knowledge production. Such approaches to digital humanities have asked how to decolonize the archive (Povinelli 2011; Lothian & Phillips 2013; Cushman 2013; cárdenas et al. 2015; Risam 2015), address gaps in knowledge produced online (Lor and Britz 2005; Sheppard 2005; Koh & Risam 2013), make legible narratives and histories that have gone untold (Rawson 2014; Thorat 2015; Verhoeven 2015), understand the specificities of digital Dalit experience (Nayar 2011), locate the subaltern in cyberspace (Gajjala 2013), or use technologies to push back against existing forms of representation that may be troubling (Sanders 2014; Priego & Gil 2013; Olsen 2014). Taking a look at the theoretical basis of such work in both postcolonial and science and technology studies (STS), this chapter situates the stakes for decolonization within digital humanities, locating a historical scholarly genealogy for this work and outlining what work toward decolonization looks like in practice within digital humanities.
    • Navigating the Global Digital Humanities: Insights from Black Feminism

      Risam, Roopika (2016-01-01)
      As the field of digital humanities has grown in size and scope, the question of how to navigate a scholarly community that is diverse in geography, language, and participant demographics has become pressing. An increasing number of initiatives have sought to address these concerns, both in scholarship—as in work on postcolonial digital humanities or #transformDH—and through new organizational structures like the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organization’s (ADHO) Multi-Lingualism and Multi-Culturalism Committee and Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (GO::DH), a special interest group of ADHO. From the work of GO::DH in particular, an important perspective has emerged: digital humanities, as a field, can only be inclusive and its diversity can only thrive in an environment in which local specificity—the unique concerns that influence and define digital humanities at regional and national levels—is positioned at its center and its global dimensions are outlined through an assemblage of the local. This idea was at the core of my Digital Humanities 2014 talk, in which I suggested that accent is a fitting metaphor for negotiating the relationships among local contexts. Similarly, at Digital Diversity 2015, Padmini Ray Murray insisted, “Your DH is not my DH—and that is a good thing.”Claire Warwick reiterated this idea in her DHSI 2015 keynote speech, suggesting that local institutions and cultures are critical to digital humanities practice. Additionally, in her talk at the Canadian Society of Digital Humanities and Association for Computers and the Humanities joint conference in 2015, Élika Ortega posited, “All DH is local DH.” The insistent resurfacing of this theme at digital humanities conferences signals a critical need for sustained theorization of the relationship between local and global in scholarship and practice.
    • Rethinking Peer Review in the Age of Digital Humanities

      Risam, Roopika (2014-01-01)
      For academics, double-blind peer review processes remain the gold standard for validating scholarly work. The value accrued by scholarship has traditionally flowed mono-directionally from peer review. In the hierarchies that govern academic hiring and tenure and promotion practices, the single-authored monograph from the distinguished scholarly press sent out for review upon completion occupies a position of prominence. Among shorter forms, the prestigious academic journal provides readily legible markers of academic quality. Yet, for scholars working in digital formats or within digital humanities, conventions governing the gatekeeping of “scholarly” work feel increasingly mismatched to the digital milieu. Therefore, digital scholarship requires consideration of the factors distinguishing it from print scholarship, along with a new approach to validating scholarship that emerges from and respects the specificities of digital work.
    • Revising History and Re-authouring the Left in the Postcolonial Digital Archive

      Risam, Roopika (2015-01-01)
      In November 2013, the National Archives of Britain revealed a secret stash of declassified colonial documents that had been hidden illegally by the Foreign Office for decades past their allotted 30-year suppression period. The archive includes: [M]onthly intelligence reports on the ‘elimination’ of the colonial authority’s enemies in 1950s Malaya; records showing ministers in London were aware of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, including a case of a man said to have been ‘roasted alive’; and papers detailing the lengths to which the UK went to forcibly remove islanders from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Among the horrors revealed in the million-plus files appear tales of bonfires held at the end of empire. The Orwellian-titled “Operation Legacy” spawned diplomatic missions to British colonies on the eve of independence charged with destroying evidence that, in the words of colonial secretary Iain Macleod, “might embarrass Her Majesty’s government … embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others, e.g. police informers.”2 The missions were planned in excruciating detail: “the waste [burnt documents] should be reduced to ash and the ashes broken up … [records disposed at sea] packed in weighted crates and dumped in very deep and current-free water at maximum practicable distance from the coast.”3 News of the records first came to light during a trial in which Kenyan men and women alleged mistreatment during the Mau Mau revolt against British colonial rule. British historians, in particular, were enraged by the secret archive; as Cambridge professor Anthony Badger, who was appointed to oversee the declassification, has written, “It is difficult to overestimate the legacy of suspicion among historians, lawyers and journalists...”4 that has resulted from news of the hidden archive’s existence. Indeed, disclosure of these records reminds us that the imperial archive remains with us, in both literal and figurative terms.
    • Toxic Femininity 4.0

      Risam, Roopika (2015-04-01)
      This paper examines constructions of toxic femininity within fourth-wave feminism. Taking hashtag feminism as its focus, this article contends that charges of toxicity lobbed online reproduce divisive dynamics that have shaped earlier trends within feminist movements in the United States. It further suggests that Twitter, as a platform, amplifies deep discomfort with theories of intersectional feminism while shaping how normative gender is reproduced online.