Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and the Digital Humanities

(edited by Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont, University of Minnesota Press, 2018)

Reviewed by Elena Kalodner-Martin


"We often experience these labor conditions personally and viscerally, particularly if we still feel the tug of our scholarly training and our home disciplines."

— Lisa Brundage, Karen Gregory, and Emily Sherwood, 2018, p. 306


Julie Flanders continued to break down the theory/practice divide with a call to fully examine how technological systems are ideological both in nature and in implication. The technical stack, or everything from the user's experience with a tool to the operating system, needs to be redone and recreated—not simply reimaged for new purposes and new audiences, whose needs are not intended to be prioritized or served. Lisa Brundage, Karen Gregory, and Emily Sherwood examined the invisible and often affective nature of alt-ac labor, focusing on how the individuals who comprise the majority of these positions are often not acknowledged or valued in their roles of care work and administration. They suggested that DH requires a new focus on connective labor, or the people who make up the unseen glue of projects, departments, and institutions (p. 312). Barbara Bordalejo examined self-reported demographic survey data within the DH field, which suggested that a sense of familiarity and comfort within the field indicates a well-masked history of cultural cloning, a system of exclusion and homogeneity that leads to non-white, non-Anglophone, non-male individuals being devalued—that is, if they are accepted at all. Sharon M. Leon concluded with looking at public history projects to explore how status, access, flexibility, and credentialing and authorization systems perpetuate a great man theory of digital history (p. 348). With a commitment to fully crediting the efforts of others and in the spirit of collaboration, Leon suggested that consciously revis[ing] our origin stories can address the racial, gendered, and linguistic inequity in DH (p. 358).


Part V. Labor didn't solely explore the efforts that materialize as interfaces, archives, tools, and other digital humanities projects but also critically examined whose labor, why, and what impact that had on how this work is acknowledged and valued (or often, not). Building otherwise, as Flanders put it, expresses a desire to move beyond revision and embodies an intersectional feminist commitment to social justice (p. 302).

The texts in this section extended discussions of technological access, critical race and feminist theories, and disciplinary and status anxiety in academic institutions to address where unequal labor practices take place. This section thus extended the discussion in Part II. Values by addressing how ideologies become embedded and encoded in practices and technologies, how those beliefs fall on bodies, and how people process, take on, and subvert these practices. Since many of these discussions looked at marginalized individuals in DH and the academy itself, this was a particularly compelling part of the book to me as a graduate student. The texts presented multiple and tangible opportunities for disruption, whether in looking beyond the academy for rich intellectual work or in refusing to present in all-white or all-Western panels. Bordalejo's chapter also provided the form she used in collecting her “minority report” data, which is instructive for those looking to create similar studies surrounding diversity.