Intersectionality in Digital Humanities

Often referred to as “the big tent,” digital humanities have been perceived as open and welcoming. As it happens, the openness, more often than not, required an introduction. Some individuals and some research were indeed welcomed, while others were left just outside the margins. Everything seemed rosy: but as some of us knew it was not. For this reason, it made sense to ask questions about whether the purported collegiality and openness of the digital humanities were indeed such. This collection seeks to provoke discussion and defy the status quo while sparking a conversation about where the digital humanities is going and where it should be going. It presents cases of intersectional research while showing its direct impact in practices and communities. Our intention is to bring to the table matters that go beyond tokenism and to present intersectional diversity and inclusion as essential for the wellbeing of the digital humanities in particular and of academia in general.

As practitioners questioned the purported homogeneity of digital humanities, intersectionality took a central place in the discourse. This collection contains eleven essential articles, including Moya Bailey’s foundational text “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave.” Each of the essays challenges the status quo and demonstrates that assumptions of impartiality are indeed just assumptions, whether they refer to individual scholars, research groups, or technologies developed for the wider public.

This collection also reprints Roopika Risam’s much cited article, “Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and Digital Humanities,” a piece that reveals intersectional research even when it has not been called by that name. She emphasizes the complementary and integrative aspects of cultural criticism and digital humanities.

The three essays focused on archival studies (Fasshauer, Levi, and Harsley) demonstrate that intersectional interventions bring forward aspects of the collections which have been overlooked in conventional research, giving a voice to traditionally silenced parties. Levi emphasizes the potential for digital archives to make visible intersectional religious and racial identities. This idea of calling attention to intersectional marginalized identities permeates the whole book and is present in every article in the collection.

Vázquez, Bordalejo, and Kim take the opportunity to denounce contemporary injustices within digital humanities. Kim’s article, “Digital Humanities, Intersectionality, and the Ethics of Harm,” is particularly significant in that it shows the degree of potential weaponization of intersectionality by far-right groups and how this will almost certainly disproportionately affect marginalized identities.

O’Donnell’s article, “All Along the Watchtower: Intersectional Diversity as a Core Intellectual Value in the Digital Humanities,” recounts the brief history of digital humanities to show that successful research does not come from perfected methodologies, but from innovative imperfection, and this is what has shaped digital humanities as we have them today.

We hope that this book will continue an important conversation while bringing forward new perspectives and topics.

Intersectionality in Digital Humanities poses questions, offers solutions, and challenges pre-conceived notions of technological impartiality.

by Barbara Bordalejo and Roopika Risam

Table of Contents:

  • “Introduction” by Barbara Bordalejo and Roopika Risam
  • “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave” by Moya Z. Bailey.
  • “Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and Digital Humanities” by Roopika Risam
  • “You Build the Roads, We Are the Intersections” by Adam Vázquez.
  • “Digital Humanities, Intersectionality, and the Ethics of Harm” by Dorothy Kim.
  • “Walking Alone Online: Intersectional Violence on the Internet” by Barbara Bordalejo.
  • “Ready Player Two: Inclusion and Positivity as a Means of Furthering Equality in Digital Humanities and Computer Science” by Kyle Dase.
  • “Gender, Feminism, Textual Scholarship, and Digital Humanities” by Peter Robinson.
  • “Faulty, Clumsy, Negligible? Revaluating Early Modern Princesses’ Letters as a Source for Cultural History and Corpus Linguistics” by Vera Fasshauer.
  • “Intersectionality in Digital Archives: The Case Study of the Barbados Synagogue Restoration Project Collection” by Amalia S. Levi.
  • “Accessioning Digital Content and the Unwitting Move toward Intersectionality in the Archive” by Kimberley Harsley.
  • “All along the Watchtower: Intersectional Diversity as a Core Intellectual Value in Digital Humanities” by Daniel Paul O’Donnell