Roopika Risam’s FiveCollege Digital Humanities lecture titled, “Is critical digital humanities possible?” (video/slides) really opened my eyes to the many fields combining technology, humanities, race, and code. I think I first met Roopika and her colleague Adeline Koh through FemTechNet after I spoke at the Fembot conference about my work launching Empowermentors, a skillshare/discussion/support group for intersectionally marginalized POC in technology. They used their personal and @DHPOCO Twitter and Tumblr accounts to help me promote and recruit for Empowermentors, and that’s how I discovered postcolonial digital humanities, but was totally unaware of the complex relationship, history, and context that the field emerged from (and what fields are emerging from it).
If any trans/disabled/queer/female POCs in the class are interested, Empowermentors has a Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook group/page. Empowermentors is now a project of the Cyberfemme Liberation Front which is the successor to the Free Culture Foundation.
As a related aside, as recently coined in Diaspora Hypertext, another related field:
Black Code Studies asks: How has that cold and scientific concreteness that was and is nineteenth-century race theory persisted? How do certain racial ideologies and narratives thrive—including twentieth-century narratives of blackness and whiteness as biopolitical binaries? To what extent have race codes and coding evolved? How do these changes interface with the work of race coders—digital activists, digital feminists, and digital black studies scholars—who continue to demand new pathways for safety and survival in the face of abject violence? What are the limits of 21st century digital black coding, even when rooted in resistance and affirming black life?
As a project, Black Code Studies draws attention to the permeability of the racial subject in an age of digital media and new technology. It highlights the importance of tying technology to a history of capitalist exploitation, global black insurgence, and Afrxdiasporic creative energy. Black Code Studies outlines a rich and rigorous set of priorities for the next future of black studies, highlighting prospects for the survival of black life well beyond the Internet.
Roopika spends some time early in her lecture focusing on the meta-dialogues around the field and quotes David M. Berry on the need for “…additional critical technical practices and habits in the use of new digital methods and tools […] such as antisocial media, hacking, critical encryption practices, iteracy, critical digital humanities, and politically engaged computial praxis. This will ensure that we can read and write outside the streams of data collected in the service of computational capitalism and government monitoring and so avoid the shadow of what we might call the dialectic of computationality.” She ties this into the surveillance state, the relationship between data and the NSA and PRISM, and digital technology’s complicity in global capitalism. This reminded me of Simone Browne’s (@wewatchwatchers) lecture, Dark Sousveillance Race, Surveillance and Resistance which draws parallels between current day surveillance and resistance with those in American slavery.
Also relevant is this discussion of Race, Surveillance and Empire: A Historical Overview with Dr. Deepa Kumar (Associate Professor, Rutgers University) and Dr. Arun Kundnani (Adjunct Professor, New York University).
Responses welcome in new posts.