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People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities Outside the Center

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Book Chapter

Publication Date



Digital humanities, Humanities -- Study and teaching (Higher), Book industry -- Digital humanities


This essay examines the infrastructural causes of digital humanities adjunct invisibility and proposes two remedies: to motivate DH adjunct self-identification by convening DH adjunct-specific prizes and bursaries; and what I call "microbenefactions": small actions by senior faculty that extend opportunities to adjuncts that cost little effort and can give adjuncts access to payment, prize-worthy work opportunities, or other benefits. The unspoken assumption is that DH skills are so much in demand that people with these skills are protected from adjuncting. As I interviewed seven DH adjuncts, their heterogeneous responses to standard questions reminded me that happy families are all alike; unhappy families are unhappy in their own particular ways. Tenure-track employment conditions are alike; adjunct employment conditions vary from state to state and from institution to institution. This essay seeks to situate such heterogeneity in overlapping employment contexts (tenure-track, alternative academic, and temporary) and recommends two practical, simple-to-perform interventions that tenured and tenurable DHers could do to materially improve the prospects and daily working experiences of DH adjuncts. It provides a microbenefaction case study, where small but crucial efforts of a senior scholar facilitated getting an adjunct paid for licensing her course materials after she left the university. When DH infrastructure supplies award incentives for adjuncts to proclaim their work and self-identify, the field will be better able to measure how many DH faculty are working precariously. Such visibility will enable the field to assess the extent to which DH adjuncting is a significant or growing phenomenon.


This is an essay in People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities Outside the Center, part of the Debates in Digital Humanities series, published by U. Minnesota Press. The final version is open-access:


Book Summary

An illuminating volume of critical essays charting the diverse territory of digital humanities scholarship

The digital humanities have traditionally been considered to be the domain of only a small number of prominent and well-funded institutions. However, through a diverse range of critical essays, this volume serves to challenge and enlarge existing notions of how digital humanities research is being undertaken while also serving as a kind of alternative guide for how it can thrive within a wide variety of institutional spaces.

Focusing on the complex infrastructure that undergirds the field of digital humanities, People, Practice, Power examines the various economic, social, and political factors that shape such academic endeavors. The multitude of perspectives comprising this collection offers both a much-needed critique of the existing structures for digital scholarship and the means to generate broader representation within the field.

This collection provides a vital contribution to the realm of digital scholarly research and pedagogy in acknowledging the role that small liberal arts colleges, community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and other underresourced institutions play in its advancement. Gathering together a range of voices both established and emergent, People, Practice, Power offers practitioners a self-reflexive examination of the current conditions under which the digital humanities are evolving, while helping to open up new sustainable pathways for its future.

Contributors: Matthew Applegate, Molloy College; Taylor Arnold, U of Richmond; Eduard Arriaga, U of Indianapolis; Lydia Bello, Seattle U; Kathi Inman Berens, Portland State U; Christina Boyles, Michigan State U; Laura R. Braunstein, Dartmouth College; Abby R. Broughton; Maria Sachiko Cecire, Bard College; Brennan Collins, Georgia State U; Kelsey Corlett-Rivera, U of Maryland; Brittany de Gail, U of Maryland; Madelynn Dickerson, UC Irvine Libraries; Nathan H. Dize, Vanderbilt U; Quinn Dombrowski, Stanford U; Ashley Sanders Garcia, UCLA; Laura Gerlitz; Erin Rose Glass; Kaitlyn Grant; Margaret Hogarth, Claremont Colleges; Maryse Ndilu Kiese, U of Alberta; Pamella R. Lach, San Diego State U; James Malazita, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Susan Merriam, Bard College; Chelsea Miya, U of Alberta; Jamila Moore Pewu, California State U, Fullerton; Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, Aalto U, Finland; Jessica Pressman, San Diego State U; Jana Remy, Chapman U; Roopika Risam, Salem State U; Elizabeth Rodrigues, Grinnell College; Dylan Ruediger, American Historical Association; Rachel Schnepper, Wesleyan U; Anelise Hanson Shrout, Bates College; Margaret Simon, North Carolina State U; Mengchi Sun, U of Alberta; Lauren Tilton, U of Richmond; Michelle R. Warren, Dartmouth College.

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