An intersectional feminist Digital Humanities project
We begin with intersectionality as a diagnosis of unequally experienced modes of oppression and injustice: Intersectional feminism recognizes difference and situation. It recognizes that forms of discrimination and inequality and injustice based on class, race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, sex operate across bodies, which suffer them, resist them, even live with them, in differential ways. Intersectional feminism is based on recognition of these unevenly felt forms of injustice.
It therefore also recognises that these forms of injustice may be perpetuated not only by those consciously fighting to maintain their privilege but also amongst those who understand their aims and goals to be liberation, justice, freedom. We acknowledge the need to understand and critique this complicity[KJ2] – and use this understanding to entail the development of a new sense of universal rights, not based on exclusions, refusals, cruelty, violence. We recognize that intersectionality, as it was developed by Kimberle Crenshaw whose name we should say and say often, insisted – and insisted loudly – on paying attention to this reality, particularly in relation to sex/gender and race and blackness.
In our research into gender and digital humanities we begin therefore by affirming a broadly intersectional approach to understanding what is to be done. This is our first beginning point. It concerns those vectors that constellate in dense ways around some bodies and less densely around others to produce unevenness, injustice, oppression, violence, exclusion.
Our second starting point turns this around. We also want to think about the virtues of intersectional bodies: This demands that we explore the virtues of forms of subjectivity that valorise process not terminal identity, that refuse to be tied down to one thing, that refuse to be the Other to another category that thinks it is the one. If we are made, we are not made as one, as stable, as fixed.
We would also like to question how this analysis may be further developed; how it relates to earlier moments in which the inter-relation of various forms of oppression was also theorised (notably by way of historical materialism), how it might be developed in relation to emerging understandings of/desires for gender abolition for instance, post-human feminisms, trans as a process that is explorable – not trans as a debate that begins by denying the legibility of people it categorizes – and through engagement with the growing, vital critique of racialisation.
Bodies, Machines, Digital Humanities: We affirm that these intersections, this politics, the forms of intervention it demands and enables, take material form. In our computationally saturated culture the form at issue is the computational; its materials, its temporalities, the social relations it articulates, are centrally concerned with how bodies matter, how intersections are made and mediated, suffered – and celebrated. Digital humanities in its expanded form needs to take these intersections as central. So, our third starting point is digital humanities, or perhaps simply the work humanities and arts can do – might do – should do – we can do – you can do – to develop questions and methodologies relevant to and derived from intersectional feminism and to adopt intersectional approaches to transform practice and experience.
As for how? This network is exploring questions of gender and Digital Humanities from multiple angles and using multiple methods: we’re looking at live coding, archiving, intersectional theory, public and small group events. We’re talking with theorists, librarians, coders, humanities scholars, media studies scholar, artists, performers, activists. And we are writing: the chain is one place to do it.
We’re launching The Chain as a 3-month writing project that responds to contemporary circumstances where we can’t meet easily, where we are zoom-swamped, and zoombified, where glancing interactions are rarely possible. We are missing times and moments when ‘breaking out’ isn’t a zoom function, when serendipity doesn’t have to be programmed, when ‘walk throughs’ are in physical space, and where interventions follow on. We are missing the kinds of entangled modes of thinking and doing this kind of flow more easily enabled; writing about media art, coding that speaks to theory, practice that finds articulation in words.
The chain is a growing series of linked entries from people in the IFTe network and beyond. They include speakers, contributors, members, investigators, advisory group members of IFTe, theorists, artists, activists, others. We’re open. Each chain entry responds in some way to the entry proceeding it and offers a suggestion (or three) for an entry to follow. We’re curating responses – but if you see an entry and you want to be the respondent let us know! We are quite happy to fork!
The links of this chain – and its various digressions – will bring into conversation people and ideas that, together, will build a narrative(s) that collectively articulates the scope and vision of intersectional DH in all its messy, dynamic, and potentially contradictory forms.
This research/project was funded by UKRI-AHRC and the Irish Research Council under the
‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Networking Call’(grant numbers
AH/V00199X/1 and IRC/V00199X/1)
 By the IFTe project collective