Asian/American Digital Humanities

A while back, I was asked to revise and expand my earlier musings about the intersections of Asian American studies and the digital humanities (AKA my attempts at mashing them together so my work would be legible) for publication. My thoughts on the matter have evolved somewhat, the more I’ve researched and read in the area, but as a whole, I still believe that the methodology and ideologies that are the foundation of Asian/Asian American and ethnic studies should be integrated with the digital humanities. Interdisciplinary and historically situated critiques along lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, and identity; contextualized within post-colonial histories; motivated by civil rights and human rights; informed by an activist and community-driven politics; and the myriad other kinds of work that make up Asian and Asian American studies can only be productive to the work of the digital humanities, which is just as diverse. Likewise, the drive to collaborate, build, share, play, and innovate, that has defined the digital humanities can be just as significant for a field in ethnic studies, which finds itself in danger in the current economic and political climate of the U.S.

Tara McPherson, Anna Everett, Wendy Chun, Lisa Nakamura, Jennifer Gonzalez, and others have been writing and talking about this for a while now, and since that earlier blog entry, written only a year and a half ago, I have already noticed an increase in conference panels, roundtables, blogs, projects, and dialogues around the issues of race and digital humanities. Questions about the whiteness of its practitioners (and often its objects of study), the perceived neutrality of its material technologies, etc. have abounded, but there is still much to be done.

One thing that DH has taught me is that ours is a small, vocal, and collaborative community. Knowing this, and feeling it would be wrong and fly in the face of everything I embrace and love about DH if I didn’t, I decided to consult my colleagues. I, alone, cannot be the voice that speaks for a small but growing body of scholars invested in this endeavor. To that end, I tweeted this query to my network of friends and colleagues:

The conversation is far from over, and I invite all of you who are interested to participate! It can be viewed (thus far) on Storify. I’m also really interested in hearing from those people in other ethnic studies programs and what intersections they see as well. I shall continue to prod and converse over the next day or so, and I’m deeply invested in hearing what others have to say and how they envision this work happening. Feel free to comment here (especially longer ones), or on Twitter.

Many thanks to Adeline Koh, Konrad Ng, and Minh-Ha Pham for participating so far. Otherwise, apologies for tagging you or cluttering up your Twitter stream.

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