Italian Trulli

Gender and Intersectional Identities in the Digital Humanities

Rachel Hendery (r.hendery@westernsydney.edu.au), Western Sydney University, Australia and Katie McDonough (kmcdonough@turing.ac.uk), Alan Turing Institute, United Kingdom and Quinn Dombrowski (qad@stanford.edu), Stanford University, United States of America and Tassie Gniady (ctgniady@iu.edu), Indiana University, United States of America

The role of gender and intersectional identities in digital humanities remains an urgent topic of conversation. Despite this, precious few spaces exist for open, safe, and inclusive discussions around intersectional gender. Digital spaces like the Crunk Feminist Collective (http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/), FemTechNet (https://femtechnet.org/), and FemBot Collective (https://fembot.adanewmedia.org/) provide blogs, resources, and opportunities for public writing on issues that matter to female-identified researchers. Perhaps despite these spaces, the expression of gender issues within digital humanities in conferences, publications, and projects struggles with striking a balance between public and private discourse. The narratives of digital spaces and the blogosphere prioritize sharing and making visible the labor of feminist activism within academia. Nevertheless, despite the emphasis on visibility, individuals in precarious, contingent labor conditions need protective shielding, as speaking about gendered experiences in DH can result in personal and professional consequences.

Safety is even less assured in the conference venues and the purview of anonymous peer review of proposals, papers, and grant applications, where institutional affiliation and long-established projects and reputations regularly prevail.

During fall 2018, a loosely organized working group formed around lived experiences of gender in the digital humanities. This group aims to provide a space for an open discussion about embodied experiences and intersectional gender identities in digital humanities. The working group aims not only to raise awareness, but pragmatically to enact change in the larger digital humanities community in its interests in strategies of resistance and survival for women and gender non-conforming digital humanists. Between January and June 2019, individual volunteers are organizing a series of monthly virtual meetings, each around a specific topic (e.g. credit, authority, (lack of) infrastructure, emotional and invisible labor, gender equity at panels, gender disparities in technical work, gender and leadership in digital humanities initiatives, etc). We anticipate that these discussions will lead to the production of documents such as white papers that will be made available for anyone to use when advocating for change at their institution, for conferences they are organizing, etc. We expect at least two of these documents to be ready for dissemination by the DH 2019 conference. We intend to release these in advance of the conference to facilitate translation and encourage multilingual engagement with these issues.

Presenting a poster at DH 2019 would provide an opportunity to expand the community and consider the group’s next organizational steps. While this working group has included participants from a variety of countries since its inception, the community has been primarily centered in the US and Canada. Time zones and linguistic diversity pose logistical challenges for organizing synchronous discussions, both can be mitigated if a larger community wanted to take that approach. Regional clusters of synchronous discussions, with discussion leaders from each region collaborating on a white paper or other document that incorporates all perspectives, could be another approach to scaling the current model. The poster session would also provide a venue for brainstorming alternative, or supplemental, venues for surfacing issues, discussing them from intersectional and international perspectives, and collectively advocating for change within digital humanities.

Finally, we hope to use the poster session as an opportunity to solicit input on a discussion draft of a Gender and DH SIG proposal, and find additional volunteers to help shepherd forward revision and submission of the proposal, given sufficient interest in engaging in organization and advocacy in that form.