Roopika Risam is an assistant professor of English and Secondary English Education at Salem State University. She researches intersections between postcolonial, African American, and US ethnic studies and the role of digital humanities in mediating between them.
Her digital scholarship includes The Harlem Shadows Project, on producing usable critical editions of public domain texts; Postcolonial Digital Humanities, an online community dedicated to global explorations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability within cultures of technology; and EdConteXts, an international network of educators.
She currently serves on the MLA Delegate Assembly, ACH Executive Council, GO::DH Executive Board, DHCommons founding editorial board, and Hybrid Pedagogy Inc. International Advisory Board.
Across Two (Imperial) Cultures: A Ballad of Digital Humanities and the Global South
East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in his 1899 poem “The Ballad of East and West.” This oft-quoted phrase has come to signify the epistemological, cultural, and philosophical differences that render Europe and Asia fundamentally unreconcilable and unknowable to each other. Sixty years later, C.P. Snow identified another presumably alienated pair: the arts and science. He suggested that a lack of common culture between scientists and literary scholars posed a significant threat to civilization. Vastly different on first glance, these pairs have helped shape the rise of modernity and, indeed, imperialism. Constructions of “East” and “West” offered rationalization for European colonialism, while arts and sciences have been implicated in empire building. Yet, these binaries also have been misunderstood, presumed to be polar opposites while inextricably linked. Perhaps nowhere are connections between them more illuminating than in the field of digital humanities; its histories and methodologies reveal complex relationships between science, culture, technology, and power worldwide. This talk begins with points of contact between these categories to examine the challenges, affordances, and limits of the Global South as a geographical and epistemological category for the digital humanities. I will consider how digital humanities already exist within a matrix of East, West, arts, and science and identify the stakes for making these connections legible in scholarly practice. By attending to these links, we might compose a new ballad of digital humanities and the Global South, reshaping the map of the field and decentering North America and Western Europe in favor of a distributed network of practitioners around the world.