I just spent three days at Humanities, Arts Sciences and Technology Alliance and Colaboratory (HASTAC) 2015 conference on the theme: “Art and Science of Digital Humanities.” I did some livetweeting, which I’ve been doing regularly at conferences but mostly I took notes directly to this post which I then edited to summarize my observations on recurring and important themes from the conference.
- This might say more about the kinds of conferences I attend, but this is the most diverse conference community I’ve ever seen.
- Perhaps not surprisingly for a digital humanities project, it’s also the youngest conference crowd I’ve ever seen. There are many more people in literature and languages using digital humanities in their pedagogy and research than any other field.
- I participated in recurring discussions of importance and difficulty of interdisciplinarity. Why do we hyperspecialize? Why do we entrench? Funding structures and disputes over resources seem to drive divisions that don’t necessarily serve our ends in digital humanities.
- A woman whose native tongue was not English kept referring to digital humanity in a panel on using digital resources in medieval studies, which got me thinking is our humanity digital?
- I had several discussions about ambiguity. Ambiguity is at the heart of humanities. Does technology excise the ambiguity in a way that is problematic or can it give students more opportunities to struggle with readings and making their own case for how to read or understand a text?
As I was writing my book on Aristotle’s political thought, I became interested in how and why institutions fail to achieve the end they purport to achieve almost as a matter of course. Institutions seem to shift their goal from the end they were established to fulfill to merely preserving their existence. What happens is that the desire to preserve their existence contravenes their efforts to fulfill the goal for which they were established. I wrote about this in a critique of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With a Dragon Tattoo series. The notion that institutions become more concerned with their preservation than their proclaimed goal now resounds from every corner (eg., protecting the police force trumps the peace and justice the police force is meant to maintain and enforce).
Over the last two months, I have been making my way slowly through Sara Ahmed’s book On Being Included: Racism and Diversity In Institutional Life (Duke University Press 2012). Ahmed argues that institutions institutionalize ‘diversity’ as a way to protect and preserve themselves without ever adequately recognizing diversity. Ahmed exposes the ways that what seems to be institutional recognition becomes institutional justification of ignoring its grave problems. So the rest of this post isn’t so much a review (good reviews can be read at Society and Space, Graduate Journal of Social Science, Erina Frost, Hypatia Reviews Online and the American Association of University Professors), as a list of the ways that diversity works that contribute to how institutions fail to diversify through appeals to their instituted diversity projects.
So the list includes three things: 1) diversity statements function as non-performatives; 2) diversity programs and policies are implemented to protect the institution rather than to further diversify the institution; 3) the language of diversity comes to have commercial value and to reflect the commercial value of the institution.