Across Two (Imperial) Cultures

On Friday, I had the great honor of giving the closing plenary at the HASTAC 2015 conference. The program committee, who planned a phenomenal conference, had chosen to feature emerging scholars for their plenaries, a decision that is quintessentially HASTAC. My talk was preceded by the opening plenary by Scott Weingart (and no, we didn’t synchronize our talks in advance) and a keynote by artists Cezanne Charles and John Marshall, who will change the way you look at household objects. Thank you, HASTAC 2015 organizers, staff, and volunteers; Michigan State University; and Cathy Davidson, Fiona Barnett, and HASTAC for the opportunity to share my work.

A Storify of tweets from my talk is available here: https://storify.com/roopikarisam/across-two-imperial-cultures-roopika-risam.

Video of the talk is available here (see ~5:10:00): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeH2QOUf4Qo.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 7.25.47 AM

Introduction

I begin with two epigraphs, which frame the intervention I wish to make. First, “Intellectuals, in particular literary intellectuals, are natural Luddites.” C.P. Snow, 1959. And, a bit older: “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” That’s Rudyard Kipling, 1889.

My talk moves in three parts: the first considers the construction of arts and sciences in relation to the crisis in the humanities in the U.S. and abroad; the second contextualizes these concerns in relation to Snow’s legacies and the digital humanities; and the third considers the Global South within the digital humanities in light of these issues, asking after Kipling, might the twain meet?

The Perpetual Crisis of the Humanities

I don’t need to tell you that public discourse about U.S. higher ed is grim. The class of 2015 just graduated with $56 billion in loans. The University of North Carolina just eliminated 46 degree programs, most from regional and historically black colleges and universities. Obama has made it clear that STEM, not the humanities, are the future of the U.S. workforce. The media and its pundits, deeply invested in narratives of the academy’s implosion, position themselves to police the crisis, as Stuart Hall would say. They inflame moral panic over higher ed, generating fodder for virtually endless op-eds by the Nicholas Kristofs and Mark Bauerleins of the world. (In the interests of disclosure, Bauerlein taught my pedagogy class. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.)

Conversations within the U.S. academy aren’t more optimistic. Our enrollments are declining. The academic labor force is being casualized. Gen-ed programs aren’t requiring literature and history courses. We perpetuate narratives of the “crisis” of the humanities, reflecting perceptions of a stark divide between arts and sciences. We only have to look at our own institutions to see relative values accorded to STEM and the humanities. We may have found ourselves lamenting what seems to be a national shift from the humanities towards pre-professional tracks. Or talking about the skill toolkits that demonstrate the utility of humanities majors – as if utility derives from vocation alone. Or perhaps we hear the phrase “STEM to STEAM!” from our deans, as if it’s a lifeboat filled with engineers who might carry the artists to safety.

The real crisis of the “crisis of the humanities” is that it’s not a crisis but a chronic condition. Early modernist Blaine Greteman has traced it to Oxonian Robert Burton’s 1621 remarks: “In former times, kings, princes, emperors, were the only scholars, excellent in all faculties … but those heroical times are past: the Muses now are banished, in this bastard age.” (I don’t know about you, but I prefer the bastard age if it means knowledge isn’t concentrated in the hands of those with the most power.) Hans Ulrich Gumbrect ups the ante by arguing that the crisis narrative has existed as long as the humanities itself, and the humanities needs its crisis to survive.

Though certainly a feature of U.S. higher ed, the crisis of the humanities’ global dimensions are vexed. It’s not an internationally translatable phenomenon. British scholar Andrew McRae has argued that it’s not applicable in England, citing mitigating factors like earlier specialization, employer attitudes, lower cost education, and the Research Excellence Framework that assesses scholarly output and causes your British academic friends to panic in December. Barbara Kehm and Liudvika Leisyte, researchers in Scotland and the Netherlands, have suggested that the rhetoric of the crisis is relevant to Europe but results from competition for funding and quality assessments like the REF. The idea of a crisis crops up elsewhere, like South Africa’s first report on the humanities in 2011. The report identifies a crisis with similar symptoms as the U.S.’s and attributes it to the post-apartheid government’s investment in STEM at the expense of the humanities. It also contextualizes the South African crisis within a worldwide one – perhaps not a surprise when you learn that one of the study’s funders is the Ford Foundation. It’s possible that one of the U.S.’s biggest exports is its crisis of the humanities.

I offer these examples not to make a grand claim about the crisis – rather, the condition – of the humanities – but to illustrate the complex and pervasive gloom that seems to have settled on the humanities and has wide reach. It may, as Gumbrecht suggests, be the antithesis the humanities needs to thrive or perhaps we’ve ousted Burton’s Muses prematurely. Yet, my sense is our contemporary incarnation of the humanities – and the fraught role of the digital humanities in relation to it – derives from C.P. Snow’s specious depictions of the arts and sciences, which have instantiated a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom for the humanities. I have to warn you, you won’t find any answers in this talk, just some provocations.

Two Cultures and the Digital Humanities

While divisions between humanities and sciences have a longer history, illustrated amply by Scott Weingart yesterday, C.P. Snow’s infamous lecture “Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution,” 56 years ago, informs present anxieties over the crisis of the humanities. He argued that scientists and literary scholars constitute “two groups – comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin…who had almost ceased to communicate at all” who are radically different in “intellectual, moral and psychological climate” (Snow 2). The literary intellectuals are largely to blame – we don’t know the second law of thermodynamics! (Protip: entropy) Intellectual life has been polarized, literary intellectuals and physical scientists mired in mutual dislike and misunderstanding. To literary scholars, scientists are self-aggrandizing techno-utopians, ignorant of the social character of modern life. (We got some of those in the humanities, believe me.) To scientists, literary scholars are trapped in hermeneutic circles and cower from reality. (And yes, science has those too.) To Snow, sciences are “intensive, rigorous, constantly in action” (13). He says, “This culture contains a great deal of argument, usually more rigorous, and almost always at a higher conceptual level, than literary persons arguments” (Snow 13). Even books are of little value, as he cites an “exacting and admirable scientist” who prefers to use his books as tools (Snow 13). Snow goes on to wonder, “What sort of a tool would a book make? Perhaps a hammer? A primitive digging instrument?” (Snow 13). In another five years, Snow could have read Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging” and have another kind of answer – but we’ll leave that to the natural Luddites. Science is our future, literary culture is our past. Scientists are morally sound, while literary scholars…. Sorry literary scholars. Science will keep us financially viable while literature… at least we’ll have something to read?

Snow’s arguments about the two cultures is a 1950s version of strawman arguments we still see today, from both scientists and disgruntled humanists. Narratives that seemingly confirm Snow’s thesis are abundant in the U.S.

John Horgan of Stevens Institute of Technology, tells engineering freshmen:

It is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now more than ever. In your science, mathematics, and engineering classes, you’re given facts, answers, knowledge, truth. Your professors say, ‘This is how things are.’ They give you certainty. The humanities give you uncertainty, doubt, and skepticism.

This statement typifies the dichotomy between the sciences and humanities, science the domain of objective thought, humanities of the subjective. The value of the humanities here is the lens it offers science, a handmaiden to the sciences, a phenomenon Julia Flanders has described as “humanities insight masters and subsumes what these technologies have to offer.”

Here is another genre of response, from Carolyn Gregoire in the Huffington Post:

Career-specific skills can often be learned on the job – whereas critical thinking and problem-solving skills are invaluable benefits of a humanities education – as demonstrated by the many Wall Street executives who studied humanities in college.

She represents the logical fallacy often present in “defenses” of the humanities, implying that “critical thinking” and “problem solving” are of the humanities and not integral parts of the sciences too. (And nothing puts the human in the humanities like Wall Street execs.)

These examples mark the kinds of justifications that reflect “two cultures” logic. Do we, ourselves, believe that the humanities are so irrelevant that applying them to the sciences or misrepresenting science skills is how we’ll stay current? It’s like we got to Matthew Arnold, never made it past “sweetness and light,” then thought, “Maybe Arnold can tell us more about disaccharides and photons.” Or like humanities scholars are magical unicorns who can actually define “critical thinking” – and the sciences don’t think. We hear echoes of Snow in how we talk about the humanities in comparison to the sciences: unwinnable competition with sciences for funding, the decline in tenure-track jobs in the humanities, the relative employability of our undergrads. The only answers we can produce are band-aids: grants, alternative paths for PhDs, skill-driven humanities courses. And as Taylor Swift would say, “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.”

Among the compelling responses to Snow, critic Lionel Trilling argues that Snow’s cultural tribalism impaired the possibility of rational discourse. There’s a warning for the humanities: will we distort our own practices, view the sciences with competitive suspicion, and foreclose the rich possibilities at the intersections of the arts and sciences. When Snow revisited his remarks in the 1960s, he seized on the social sciences as an answer – a third culture. Yet, that only has the effect of reifying the humanities and science binary.

Consider, on the other hand, one of the few examples I could find that doesn’t reflect Snow’s logic, from Gail Houston, English chair at the University of New Mexico: “Hard sciences and social sciences depend upon metaphor (the stuff of fiction and poetry, Shakespeare and Woolf) to describe abstract algorithms and theories.” Such an example pushes back against an arts/sciences divide but not through caricature. It also recalls an observation frequently made by digital humanist Willard McCarty about British computer pioneer Alan Turing: his mathematical genius was matched only by his capacity for metaphor – and from both came modern computing.

It’s here at the place where the humanities and sciences meet that digital humanities is in danger of becoming the red herring in the crisis of the humanities. Polemics about the field – usually the most critical ones – position it as a third culture. In doing so, they reinforce the inferiority of the humanities in relation to STEM fields: that the only role of humanities is to explain or “humanize” the sciences, that digital skills will get English and history majors jobs, that here’s where the money is. They imply that to be a thriving discipline, the humanities needs to be like STEM: instrumental, employable, fundable. Looking to the model of the sciences to “solve” the crisis of the humanities, we reify Snow’s argument that engine of knowledge, the agent of change, is the sciences. To do so is to continue locating the humanities in a subordinate position and epitomize the two cultures thesis.

Digital humanities does reveal where sciences and the humanities overlap. But it’s done disservice by a “two cultures” narrative because that suggests sciences and arts are fundamentally in opposition to each other – and that’s the wrong approach. The right one is to consider the relation between the digital and the human – not a fundamental opposition itself. This relation shapes the range of practices subsumed under the broad term “digital humanities,” including humanities computing, computers and writing, new media studies, and more. The more sophisticated definitions of the field aren’t the ones that are simply additive (i.e. humanities computing plus, as Natalia Cecire has put it) but view the constituent dimensions of digital humanities as a way of promoting greater complexity. This dynamic is present in a definition offered by Kathleen Fitzpatrick that’s currently the Wikipedia definition of digital humanities:

For me it has to do with the work that gets done at the crossroads of digital media and traditional humanistic study…. it’s bringing the tools and techniques of digital media to bear on traditional humanistic questions. But it’s also bringing humanistic modes of inquiry to bear on digital media. It’s a sort of moving back and forth across those lines, thinking about what computing is, how it functions in our culture, and then using those computing technologies to think about the more traditional aspects of culture.

If we view humanities as a lens to interpret the sciences alone, humanists will always be inferior to the scientists – and the scientists aren’t out there worrying about the superiority of humanities scholars. Digital humanities is not a false hope for empirical value in the humanities or a pseudoscience but a set of practices that articulate a complex relationship between experiment and interpretation.

Indeed, HASTAC and 4Humanities are examples of the rich possibilities of the digital humanities. I will say more about HASTAC later, but 4Humanities, co-founded by Alan Liu, Melissa Terras, and Geoffrey Rockwell, describes its mission as follows:

The humanities contribute the needed perspective, training in complex human phenomena, and communication skills needed to spark, understand, and make ‘human’ new discoveries. In the process, they themselves discover new, and also very old, ways to be human. They do so through their unique contribution of the wisdom of the past, awareness of other cultures in the present, and imagination of innovative and fair futures.

This is not half-hearted science or the two cultures at work – rather, it, like Fitzpatrick’s definition, it marks flexible movement across the boundaries of humanities and science practices and pushes back against the disciplinary isolation – as Scott Weingart put it – that has currency within the academy.

Yet, Snow’s work does have insight for understanding the digital humanities, both in its emergence in the U.S. and the challenges of the global digital humanities. His claims are linked to a particular form of imperialism: the Cold War. Snow saw in scientists a stronghold against communism. He believed the sciences could be taken abroad to industrialize the developing world and solve inequality gaps. Indeed, during the last half of the 20th century, the Cold War situated strategies of engagement and funded scientific research – that is to say, the engine driving technology and innovation was the imperial battle for world domination by the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

As Willard McCarty has argued, the Cold War is an important context for understanding humanities computing, one of the precursors to digital humanities. The otherness of the Soviet Union was accompanied by what he calls “the uncanny otherness of computing.” For McCarty, the Cold War is “the defining context of computing in its infancy,” and by extension it’s one defining context for humanities computing. He attributes the marginality of humanities computing and its alienation from mainstream humanities in part to Cold War computing – “the real or imagined mainframe systems that were other to most humanists because they were physically, culturally alien, and obviously complicit” with militarization and social disruption. McCarty cites English philosopher Anthony Kenny’s speculation that humanities scholars turned away from computing and towards critical theory because of a “fear of quantification.” As McCarty notes, the end of the Cold War coincided with the public release of the Web in 1991, and despite its publicness and openness, the Web did little to stir the passions of mainstream humanities – that is until the emergence of digital humanities as a major player in the mid-2000s.

Why digital humanities now? There are any number of good answers, like the job market, social dimensions of web 2.0 that are transforming scholarly practices, graphical user interfaces, and the development of content management systems that don’t require handcoding from scratch. Another striking dimension, as yet unexplored, is that just as humanities computing came up in a Cold War context, the heyday of digital humanities has coincided with the Long War, the name coined by U.S. military leaders for the so-called War on Terror. This war has brought with it untold technological terrors: armed drone warfare, the PRISM surveillance program, automatic biometric systems, and backscatter x-ray technology at airports. The technology of warfare is pitted against the threat of radical Islam, in an age where even Bin Laden had a digital bookshelf. (My next digital humanities project is in there somewhere, if anyone wants to collaborate.)

While Cold War technologies seem to have made humanities scholars run in the other direction from humanities computing, recently humanities scholars have been running towards the digital humanities. Why? Perhaps the ubiquity, convenience, and user friendliness of computer technology and digital media have transformed Cold War fear into the Long War’s morbid curiosity. After all, using one’s thumbprint to unlock a phone may make biometric technology seem less distressing. Or maybe humanities scholars are resigned to big data. More optimistically, perhaps the access to forms of knowledge production and dissemination online offer hope for pushing back against the horrors of the age through WikiLeaks, blogs, Twitter. In light of these conditions, digital humanities holds the perhaps elusive promise of both understanding and mastery of the technological means of production of knowledge, a victory, however small, in the face of a technological environment driven by omnipresent war. Here is where Fitzpatrick’s definition and the 4Humanities mission, again, are revealing: we can use tools to ask humanistic questions, we can use humanistic inquiry to understand computation and digital technologies, but we use these answers to inform one another and only through the interoperability of these practices can we better understand both the humanities and technology.

Why did I just take you on a strange trip from humanities computing to the digital humanities through the Cold War and Long War? To illustrate unavoidable links between imperialism and the field’s trajectory in the U.S. – I’m a postcolonialist, after all. And, in doing so, to illustrate the way that digital humanities already exists within a matrix of humanities, sciences, east, west, Global North, and Global South. I have repeatedly insisted that I’m speaking of a U.S. context for the digital humanities to emphasize that what this matrix looks like is fluid, shifting in relation to a complex interplay between history, technology, access, power that necessarily varies in both national and regional contexts.

III. Digital Humanities and the Global South

You may remember this bumper sticker from the 90s: “think globally, act locally.” It’s now the slogan for CUNY Commons Connect but gets used in an array of industries and is the catchphrase of the globalized era. It’s the idea I was getting at the 2014 Digital Humanities conference in Lausanne, where I proposed that digital humanities might use the concept of the “accent” to negotiate the differences in practices around the world. Spoken language has accents, written language has accents, we all have accents – digital humanities has accents too: practices, theories, preferences that look different and are informed by local context. To invoke the concept of accent is to decenter a hegemonic definition or expectation of digital humanities scholarly practice, give us a framework to move beyond the tedious task of defining digital humanities and to fully appreciate both the affordances and challenges of “doing” digital humanities around the world. It’s the challenge to move from a logic that centers the U.S., U.K. and Canada in digital humanities to embracing the diversity of practices around the world. As Alex Gil, who was the driving force behind the AroundDH in 80 Days project, wrote recently, “The U.S. is very provincial in these matters.” I have, perhaps ad nauseum, situated the U.S.-ness of my analysis to emphasize that it’s only in this matrix and in relation to local context that we are able to be reflective about our practices. My experience of being within the U.S. academy is that it’s easy to center U.S. practices as global ones – to view the digital humanities around the world through the framework shaped by major projects, debates, and institutions within the U.S. Indeed, this speaks to why we can’t situate digital humanities as a resolution to a humanities vs. science dichotomy of Snow: we’ll be reduced to reconciling a divide and obscure the longer relationship between the history of the humanities and technology in its multiple dimensions around the world. Indeed, there aren’t any resolutions.

Perhaps you are familiar with the Rudyard Kipling line I quoted at the beginning of my talk, “East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” This quote is often held up of a signifier of a fundamental difference between east and west, of both epistemological and ontological differences that render each unknowable to each other. Like Snow’s two cultures does for the arts and sciences, Kipling’s quote seems to reify the monolithic natures of the east and west. Yet what many people familiar with Kipling’s line don’t know is that, indeed, the twain do meet in the poem – the Afghan warrior and British colonel decide they have something in common after all, imagine that. As Kipling’s work indicates, it’s not only the sciences that are shaped by imperialism – so too are the humanities. Global digital humanities is not only a place where humanities and sciences meet but also where today’s instantiation of east and west – the Global North and South meet too. Implied in this meeting are presumptions of difference, of commonality, of suspicion, of troubling power dynamics – and these are the challenges of the global digital humanities – the negotiating of not only two imperial cultures but the hegemony of Anglo-American (that is, Anglophone U.S., U.K. and Canadian) digital humanities.

Yet, in digital humanities scholarship around the world, what often happens is that scholarship from the Anglo-American context is cited as the digital humanities scholarship. Anyone who saw Staci Stutsman’s excellent poster that analyzes digital humanities syllabi may not be surprised to learn that the names we so often see on U.S. digital humanities syllabi – Matthew Kirschenbaum, Steve Ramsay, Dan Cohen – are also the ones most prominently cited in digital humanities scholarship around the world. Though this work is defining for the field, the dynamic at work is problematic because the trajectories of digital humanities in the U.S. are not the same ones shaping digital scholarly practice in the humanities in other places. Granted, this is not an issue unique to digital humanities but is reveals the ways that theoretical constructs of the Global North have shaped modes of knowledge production around the world – a problem of epistemology. This is a sign for the ongoing need for locally-situated scholarship and indigenous frameworks to theorize questions of the digital, otherwise the U.S. – and indeed the U.K. and Canada in the context of digital humanities – may subsume the rest of world in its ambit. Like the crisis of the humanities, perhaps digital humanities scholarship is another major U.S. export.

I’m reminded of a provocative statement offered by Padmini Ray Murray at the Digital Diversity 2015 conference earlier this month: “Your DH is not my DH.” It’s an important reminder that the debates, practices, and shape of digital humanities in other countries and contexts – in her case India – is not the same as it is in the U.S. Here are a few examples that illustrate the reasons why Anglo-American digital humanities scholarship is of limited use around the world. Indian digital humanities is inflected by the troublesome history of science and technology in India and the strength of the IT sector there. Moreover, the education system, more closely related to the British one, strongly segregates the humanities and sciences, makes curricularizing digital humanities difficult. Despite the strong impulse towards archiving in Indian digital humanities, there is underrepresentation of local languages because optical character recognition does not account for them. Here is where the ability to critique “building,” taken for granted in a U.S. context, is an unaffordable luxury elsewhere – building new tools to account for these languages is crucial to cultural preservation. Indeed, a critique of tool-building may be the privilege of English speakers who can use existing tools – even if we are aware of the limitations of representation for intersections race, gender, class, sexuality, and other axes of identity. Another challenge is different scripts in a country that has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. In one, Kashmiri, the language my family and I speak, there are no less than three different scripts, used in different regions or for different purposes. OCR that.

In South Korea, despite massive government investment in digitizing information and digital cultural heritage, digital humanities has failed to gain currency. Javier Cha argues this stems from a digital vs. humanities divide that results from the government’s failure to include humanists in the post-industrial transition of the 1960s and 1970s. This remains the case even though humanities research practices have been transformed by the availability of digital archives.

In Nigeria, as scholar Siyan Oyewoso has noted, language preservation is an area in which digital humanities might intervene but it’s only possible to do so by combining information and communication technology with the humanities in the context of local languages. Such an approach requires the owning and appropriating of technology to ensure that it’s viewed locally as belonging to scholars within Nigeria – not an import from abroad.

South Africa’s National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences has been collaborating with the Council for Development in Social Science Research in Africa, seeing to strengthen South-to-South collaborations on the continent. Digital humanities, through blogs, wikis, microblogging, podcasts, social networks, web conferencing, and open educational resources, is making this possible. South African scholars Johannes A. Smit and Denzil Chetty argue that the printed word created isolation for African scholars but digital humanities bridges the gap, not only with the rest of the world but also among African scholars. It may not be my place to point out that South Africa has a unique postcolonial history and for South Africans to evoke pan-Africanist rhetoric muddies the stakes and challenges. However, Dorothy Odartey-Wellington spoke to this idea at yesterday’s African and African-descendant culture panel when she described Western Sahara literature as “born digital,” a factor of the Moroccan colonization that replaced the Spanish in Western Sahara.

What I’m describing are not only scholarly practices but also survival practices. The ability to produce digital cultural heritage is matter of epistemic survival. Within colonized or formerly colonized nations, access to means of cultural production has been a way of reshaping dynamics of cultural power, claiming humanity that has been denied, retelling the stories told about them, and, in doing so, pushing back against the dynamic Karl Marx articulates in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented.” At MLA this year, Alex Gil reminded us that access to representation in the U.S. is more complicated than “have and have not” for people who are undocumented and whose survival depends on living in the shadows. Annemarie Perez raised a similar issue at the #dhlimits panel this morning when talking about asking students to write in public – being public about identities can be a dangerous act. It’s also, sometimes, a literal matter of life and death: on the shuttle from the Lansing airport, I met Rachel Wexelbaum, an active Wikipedia edit-a-thon organizer, who described the situation of LGBT wikipedians in Azerbaijan who were kidnapped and tortured because they were editing Wikipedia.

Indeed, the digital divides that exist in the world do so unevenly, the local contexts matter and are inflected by linguistic, cultural and social dimensions, each location – and even local communities within national contexts – uniquely constituted beyond binaries like east or west or humanities and sciences. It’s only by defining and situating these contexts and the digital humanities practices that exist within them that we can understand what digital humanities looks like at both local and global scales. That is to say, my apologies if this sounds tautological, digital humanities is defined only by mapping its practices. Indeed, at the global scale, we find resonance with Matthew Kirschenbaum’s evocation of Stuart Hall’s “floating signifier” (for Hall, race, for Kirschenbaum, digital humanities) to encompass the range of practices that constitute the field. To think globally and to act locally, in practice, is to foreground the particular over the universal, to make fewer general and more nuanced claims about the humanities and the sciences in the 21st humanities, and to reveal the range of possibilities enabled by the digital humanities.

Conclusion

But lest you think I’m bringing the pessimism hard, I want to suggest that what I’ve witnessed these last two days at this conference and online through the HASTAC website – as we learned yesterday from Cathy Davidson, the world’s oldest academic social network – is the present and future of the digital humanities, and not simply in the United States. Yesterday, Dean Rehburger, the director of Matrix here at MSU, observed that the diversity of this conference was remarkable for digital humanities. Indeed, it’s remarkable for not-digital humanities too. We see it in the wide range of affiliations of people who are here. We see it in the range of panels and posters – “African and African-descendant Cultures in the Digital Age,” which spoke to how ethnically diverse communities are adapting digital tools for their cultural dynamics; “Women of Color Feminisms and Digital Production Pedagogy,” which explored concepts and strategies for incorporating women of color feminism and digital production in teaching; Cezanne Charles and John Marshall’s tremendous keynote on their art that explores the “social-technical imaginary” – the list goes on: the HASTAC and Computers and Writing crossover dialog, “Learning with/in Technology: Local Challenges in the Globalized Digital Era,” “Feminist and Embodied Perspectives on Social Media and Social Justice.”

The evidence that Snow has it wrong is right here in this room. Here we find the hope for scholarly practitioners whose rich conversations move beyond binaries of arts and science, east and west, who can make thinking globally and acting locally a real possibility. We can be the ones who disavow Snow’s logical fallacies and remember that in Kipling, the twain really do meet – but in complicated ways inflected by imperial dynamics. We can be the ones who situate our work in the complex matrices of power, knowledge, and locality. We can’t solve the crisis of the humanities – and I’m increasingly convinced it’s not meant to be solved – but perhaps we can reclaim Burton’s banished Muses, not for those in whose hands political power is concentrated but for our communities in their many dimensions. And, in doing so, we might be the ones who instantiate a new heroical age for scholarship in the 21st century.

Citations without links

Kehm, Barbara and Liudvika Leisyte. “Effects of New Governance on Research in Humanities: The Example of Medieval History.” Governance and Performance in the German Public Research Sector: Disciplinary Differences. Dordrecht: Springer, 2010. 73-90.

Snow, C.P. Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1961.

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