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


"'Speaking nearby' has meant … providing a view from somewhere recognizable, even if not fully knowable from the outside."

— Sandra Gabriele, 2018, p. 459


In her chapter, Amy A. Earhart asked researchers to consider their situatedness within universities; since academic institutions have often exploited marginalized communities, centering these under-privileged voices in research design, data collection, and interpretation is a key way to prioritize social justice work in DH. Beth Coleman's case studies ranged from the murder of Michael Brown to the disproportionate violence of Stop and Frisk programs. She illustrated how looking at the interrelatedness of data, data context, and analysis is a way to explore how networked and located publics form and resist the spooky affect and effect of a threatening, racialized environment (p. 406). Kathryn Holland and Susan Brown examined situatedness by examining feminist literary histories; the reader-centered, nonlinear, and collaboratively built Orlando Project (their DH initiative) helps to explore the importance of building a feminist theory of subjectivity into digital artifacts of lives and language.

Babalola Titilola Aiyegbusi explored how DH's evolution as a Western phenomenon is due to how the field tends to acknowledge and respond to economic and infrastructural challenges in other parts of the globe. She used the Nigerian context to illustrate how differences in academic structures between African and American traditions perpetuate the notion that digital humanities belongs only to the West (p. 444), and she suggested that collaboration must occur across racial, geographic, and cultural lines in order to truly become more inclusive. Sandra Gabriele analyzed the newsgame genre, a hybrid between video games and editorial journalism, which highlights systems of power and storytelling. In looking at a newsgame that explores sex workers under restrictive legislation, Gabriele posited that an intersectional feminist lens in this genre should speak nearby for vulnerable populations, which resists commodification, objectification, and closure, while opening up space for empathy, dialogue, and tension (p. 459). Finally, Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett examined cases of identity-based violence in gaming and social media, such as with GamerGate and Twitter harassment, to discuss why the academy's reliance on networking and engagement in the public sphere can be limiting for marginalized individuals. Broadening definitions of public scholarship and looking beyond open platforms helps to account for those who have been silenced, excluded, or violated in these spaces.


In Part VI. Situatedness, the authors took up where scholarship is valued, such as academic institutions and social networks (Earhart; Salter & Blodgett), how these locations privilege some bodies over others (Coleman; Gabriele; Aiyegbusi), and how new ways of seeing and interpreting data allows for new trends and voices to emerge (Holland & Brown). Examining situatedness in the digital humanities continues the calls of the other sections in this book and asks that scholars and users look beyond traditional paradigms to explore the other digital, physical, and discursive spaces that meaning is made and taken up.

The texts in this section were also deeply related to whose bodies are able to access what spaces and how unequal recognition of labor and allocation of resources contribute to the range of hegemonic practices and products in the digital humanities. Tied to feminist methods in rhetorical theory, this section also provided suggestions for how prioritizing dialogue and empathy does not mean forgoing critical technological and digital work, but rather enriches it. The sites explored in this section, ranging from video games to YikYak to online archives, helped to impress upon DH researchers, instructors, and students the wide scope of places that could benefit from intersectional feminist intervention. An attention to situatedness, then, supports looking both inwards at people and outwards at the belief systems that prescribe value to them.