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


"I am calling for solidarity between all those whom the word 'humanity' has failed to signify, and for an ethics that extends beyond the human."

— micha cárdenas, 2018, p. 35


In Part 1. Materiality, the chapter authors examined how political and socioeconomic structures, tools, and bodies are intrinsically intertwined with how we touch and use materials within the field. Kim Brilliante Knight explored these relationships through looking at how data is made visible on bodies through the artistic data visualization of her Danger, Jane Roe! t-shirt, warning individuals of increased pro-life rhetoric on social media (p. 7). Similarly, micha cárdenas examined what android goddesses and the low-cost bulletproof clothing for Black trans women share: a centering of what it means to use materials, bodies, and under-privileged and at-risk perspectives to increase safety and subvert exclusionary meanings of humanity. Roopika Risam's text extended the question of what it means to be human; in focusing on how artificial intelligence (AI) develops human-like language processing and cognition skills, she asked us to consider whose humanity gets represented in AI, and further, whose does not. Finally, Cole et al. examined materiality from the perspective of research grants, where materiality represents both a financial resource and the often-overlooked reality of the communities who contribute to and are studied in feminist digital humanities research. For Danielle Cole et al., ethical intersectional feminist research begins not with the methodologies used but with the process of timely and equitable labor reimbursement (p. 62).


Together, these pieces examine materiality as a concern for intersectional feminists and digital humanists by asking: How is our data rooted in material realities? Whose bodies are obscured in data visualization and collection? Where can we make research more visible—on both the front and back end? With a call to make background labor and marginalized bodies more visible, Knight, cárdenas, Risam, and Cole et al. extended materiality not just to what researchers touch and use, but the practices that make these tools possible and the bodies that are implicated and affected.

Ultimately, the texts in this section pushed understandings of materiality past tangible objects to the feminist intersections of physical bodies, digital technologies, and financial resources—rich areas of inquiry for intersectional DH practitioners that have been limited by the field's historical focus on Western-based, white, male contributions. This section may be particularly interesting for those who are interested in envisioning the different forms that digital humanities projects can take, or instructors and researchers seeking both pedagogical instruction and rationale for designing research projects that assure mutually beneficial outcomes for researchers, participants, and related organizations (Cole et al., p. 67).