Mission Statement

by Roopika Risam and Adeline Koh

6989592453_3193b42c12Postcolonial digital humanities has taken shape recently as an emergent academic field. Its lineage reaches back to the 1990s, when scholars Deepika Bahri and George Landow first created websites such as “Postcolonial Studies at Emory” (original version) and “The Postcolonial Literature and Culture Web.” These scholars marshaled the text-based internet culture of Web 1.0 to establish sites of knowledge; identify key terms, theorists, and stakes for postcolonial studies; and to publicize the field. Since the publication of these projects, rapid digital and technological changes around the world have provided untapped rich opportunities for the application and analysis of postcolonial studies.

Our website addresses these opportunities by outlining the shape of the contemporary ‘postcolonial digital humanities’ through interrogating the ways postcolonial studies has evolved through different phases of internet culture. We study developments from the original Web 1.0 postcolonial websites, to what Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White have identified as the “transmedia” shift beginning in the mid-2000s, to the later move to Web 2.0 and the rise of social media cultures. The mid-2000s transmedia shift began changing digital practices by eliding boundaries between media producers and consumers. Such shifts have raised questions of possible epistemological differences in the articulation of identities in digital spaces. However, scholars including Alan Liu, Anna Everett, Jessie Daniels, and Nakamura herself, have observed that problematic racial and ethnic categories persist within digital cultures. Similarly, as Afrofuturists Alondra Nelson and Kali Tal  have proposed, digital spaces remain susceptible to racial oppression and white supremacy. Taking these assessments of digital space as its basis, postcolonial digital humanities brings critiques of colonialism, imperialism, and globalization and their relationship to race, class, gender, sexuality and disability to bear on the digital humanities.

Grounded in the literary, philosophical, and historical heritage of postcolonial studies and invested in the possibilities offered by digital humanities, we position postcolonial digital humanities as an emergent field of study invested in decolonizing the digital, foregrounding anti-colonial thought, and disrupting salutatory narratives of globalization and technological progress. We have three major goals: to define the postcolonial digital humanities, to locate ways postcolonial studies can and should shift in response to digital changes and challenges, and to write alternative genealogies of the digital humanities.

We note that defining the digital humanities is highly contested (Kirschenbaum, Fitzpatrick, Spiro, Svensson, Alvarado, Scheinfeldt, Gavin and Smith in Debates in the Digital Humanities; also see a community definition of the digital humanities in the Day of Digital Humanities 2012). For our purposes, our working definition of the digital humanities is a set of methodologies engaged by humanists to use, produce, teach, and analyze culture and technology.

Taking such conversations as our basis, this collaborative website explores the theoretical and practical considerations of postcolonial digital humanities. We welcome feedback, suggestions and contributions to our conversations.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Image of Kuala Lumpur by David Davies on Flickr.


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