POST: Towards monocultural (digital) Humanities?

Domenico Fiormonte (University of Roma Tre) has published a blog post on InfoLet, “Towards monocultural (digital) Humanities?” Fiormonte, partially in response to Gregory Crane’s (Tufts University) recent article, “The Big Humanities, National Identity and the Digital Humanities in Germany,” analyzes linguistic diversity in digital humanities research.

English native speakers get a free ride, but the incommensurate economical, rhetorical and semiotic power of Anglophones undermine and inhibit the right to express ideas in our own native language. If biology is a model, then we should remember that monoculture is pushing species towards extinction in the most effective way.

A colleague and I have an article coming out on the relationship between the language of DH publications and the languages of sources (i.e. bibliographic references and citations). Our data, although gathered from a relatively small sample (seven main DH journals worldwide), show that DH is monolingual  regardless of the country and/or working institution/affiliation of authors.

Fiormonte goes on to discuss language bias issues in the sources used for Crane’s article (Scopus, the Science Citation Index, the Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index), as well as concerns surrounding monolingualism and English as the dominant language of DH research.

These data show that the real problem is not that English is the dominant language of academic publications (and of DH), but that both Anglophone and a high percentage of non-Anglophone colleagues barely use/quote non-Anglophone sources in their research. On the long run, this trend could have a devastating effect on Humanities research as a whole, and lead to the disappearance of cultural diversity (at least in academic publications…). In educational institutions worldwide we keep hearing “go English if you want to be international”, a mantra that can be also translated as “your local language is useless for intellectual expression”.

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between​ Theresa Burress, Franny Gaede, Jasmine Jones, Samuel Russell, Saskia Scheltjens, and Jaqueline Woolcott (Editors-at-large for the week), Caitlin Christian-Lamb (Editor for the week), Zach Coble and Sarah Potvin (Site Editors), and Caro Pinto, Roxanne Shirazi, and Patrick Williams (dh+lib Review Editors).