ROUND-UP: Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities (and Responses)

Daniel Allington (University of the West of England), Sarah Brouillette (Carleton University) and David Golumbia (Virginia Commonwealth University) published “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, arguing that the digital humanities have “played a leading role in the corporatist restructuring of the humanities.” Positioning DH against the more traditional form of humanities scholarship, which relies on “painstaking individual scholarship” with “less immediate economic application,” the authors claim:

What Digital Humanities is not about, despite its explicit claims, is the use of digital or quantitative methodologies to answer research questions in the humanities. It is, instead, about the promotion of project-based learning and lab-based research over reading and writing, the rebranding of insecure campus employment as an empowering “alt-ac” career choice, and the redefinition of technical expertise as a form (indeed, the superior form) of humanist knowledge.

The article goes on to engage with several debates within literary studies, with a special focus on the development of DH within the English department at the University of Virginia.

The Los Angeles Review of Books has also featured several interviews in its recent series covering the digital humanities.

Since Allington, Brouillette, and Golumbia’s article appeared, several responses have been shared and are listed below:

de-baits in the digital humanities
Alex Reid (University at Buffalo) – 1 May 2016

Critiquing the Critique of Digital Humanities
Alan Jacobs (Baylor University) – 2 May 2016

Drafts for Against the Cultural Singularity (book in progress)
Alan Liu (University of California, Santa Barbara) – 2 May 2016

In Defense of Digital Tools (by a Non-Tool)
Amardeep Singh (Lehigh University) – 2 May 2016

Digital Humanities in Other Contexts
Roopika Risam (Salem State University) – 3 May 2016

The Scandal of Digital Humanities
Brian Greenspan (Carleton University) – 4 May 2016

Versions of disciplinary history
Ted Underwood (University of Illinois) – 4 May 2016

Underwood’s piece, in particular, emphasizes the role that libraries have played in the development of the digital humanities. In addition to the blog posts listed above, many reactions were captured via Storify, including “Schyuler Esprit on DH Work” (compiled by Porter Olsen), “On Digital Humanities and ‘Critique‘” (compiled by Alan Liu), and “Responding to *that* LARB piece on DH” (compiled by Paige Morgan).

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Caroline Barratt, Megan Browndorf, Melanie Hubbard, Hillary A. H. Richardson, and Bobby Smiley (Editors-at-large for the week), Roxanne Shirazi (Editor for the week), Sarah Potvin (Site Editor), and Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Caro Pinto and Patrick Williams (dh+lib Review Editors).