“What are the postcolonial digital humanities?”
To be honest, I didn’t know. Coming from a composition background, I only have a vague concept of what the various flavors of literary criticism entail, so after reading the “Founding Principles” of the PCDH website, I go looking for the answer. The mission statement of the PCDH website describes the field as “interrogating the ways postcolonial studies has evolved through different phases of internet culture,” but that doesn’t tell me what postcolonial means, so next I turn to the site’s glossary… only to find it under construction. So. On to Googling “postcolonial.” Eventually I do find out what postcolonial studies are, but my search led me to question the effectiveness of a site that won’t tell me what its title means. Of course, it may be an issue of audience (part of the rhetorical situation): maybe the authors don’t expect someone to visit the site if she doesn’t “do” postcolonial studies. Still, it couldn’t hurt to reach out to that unexpected audience. The missing glossary reminds me of last class’s conversation: DH work is never finished. (However, I wonder just how “soon” I should “check back.” The site seems to have been launched in March, 2013, and the most recent blog entry was posted in April, 2014. If the glossary hasn’t been finished in almost two years and the site not updated in almost one, I don’t have high hopes for “soon” being “soon.”)
Nevertheless, question #2 in the “Founding Principles” struck me as important not just for “poco” but for all of us. “How can/should the goals of [insert field here] shift to adapt to digital changes and challenges?” Barrett’s blog post addresses one facet of this issue for poco in questioning the ethics of PCDH projects funded by the state; Barrett asks if DH work is “meaningfully indebted and structured” by national institutions since these institutions provide much of DH’s funding – a very good question, although I think one not only applicable to PCDH but to all university-sponsored poco work. Yet, I think question #2 should be asked for every field engaging in DH. For me, this question becomes “How should composition adapt to the digital?” While composition has had its foot in the digital door for quite some time, longer than most other humanities fields, we still have not fully adapted. With a little tweaking, the subquestions below #2 can also apply to my field. The concerns of the PCDH site lead me to consider and question my own work in the light of DH, which I hope to embrace.
I agree that the DH Poco website’s founding principles and mission statement did not quite define postcolonial studies, but I found this definition of postcolonial DH in their mission statement helpful for getting at the postcolonial: “an emergent field of study invested in decolonizing the digital, foregrounding anti-colonial thought, and disrupting salutatory narratives of globalization and technological progress.”