Saturday, January 5, 2013

Representing Race: Silence in the Digital Humanities

Alondra Nelson, Adeline Koh, and Anne Cong-Huyen
 Adeline Koh knows how to build interest in an MLA panel, long before the MLA conference. As early as April, Koh was alerting us--her twitter followers--that she was coordinating a panel discussion, "Representing Race: Silence in the Digital Humanities," which included Alondra Nelson as a respondent. By the time the panel took place, I had read a few different tweets, blog entries, and brief online conversations about what would take place.

[Related: From Afrofuturism and AfroGeeks to Digital Humanities]

On her website, Koh noted that
This roundtable presents new work by younger scholars on the issues of race, ethnicity and silence within within the digital humanities. Despite being widely acknowledged as important structural norms, race and ethnicity continue to be neglected analytical concepts within this growing field. This silence extends in various forms: in the calibration of digital humanities tools, projects and datasets, which fail to provide mechanisms to examine race as an important category of analysis; in how race structures forms of online identity in computer-mediated forms of communication; and in racialized silences within digital archives. In all of these forms, race and ethnicity persist as undertheorized, haunting signifiers within the digital humanities.
The papers by Koh, Anne Cong-Huyen, Hussein Keshani, and Maria Velazquez as well as the remarks by Nelson were insightful and informative. Moya Bailey, who couldn't make it, offered her remarks on her site.   When I return from the conference, I'll have more time to write extended comments on the panel.

I came to digital humanities by way of afrofuturism, and in addition to concepts related to AF and now DH projects, I've been fascinated with how scholar-organizers have taken steps to build interest in race and technology projects through the development of online discussion forums, edited collections, public meetings, tumblr sites, twitter hashtags (i.e. #transformDH), and in this most recent case with Koh, the promotions and coordination of an MLA panel.  

Digital Humanities   

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