post-MLA link on DH and ethnic studies

While I was composing my last post, Anne Cong-Huyen posted a blog about Asian American studies and the digital humanities that I think is really important. It articulates a lot of the thoughts I’ve been vaguely having about the relationship between queer and gender studies (which of course overlap everywhere with ethnic and critical race studies).

As the Digital Humanities becomes more institutionalized and recognized as a field, with many universities making cluster hires and building DH areas of their own, ethnic studies departments seem to be finding themselves in more precarious situations which has led to efforts to justify their existence and relevance. When ethnic studies programs elsewhere are being eliminated (I’m glaring in the general direction of Arizona right now) the anxiety I’ve noticed at UCSB in particular is not completely unfounded (but c’mon, “post-racial”? Really?!). How many grads have I spoken to who have expressed some regret that they didn’t jump on that digital band wagon earlier so they could be more marketable now?

It seems there’s a danger of the digital being marked as the future of the humanities, hopeful and shiny despite all the ways the rhetoric of internet utopias has been debunked, while the difficult and complex work of talking about racial materialities (including such issues as who makes our computers) gets left behind. I do know there are a lot of scholars working with digital media who are thinking about these things––Kara Keeling, Tara McPherson, Lisa Nakamura, Wendy Chun and so on and so on––but that angle doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of what people mean when they say “Digital Humanities.”

Anyway, it’s something to think about as I head, trepidatiously, to my first THATCamp tomorrow morning.

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