Linguistic and Cultural Hegemony in the Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities has undergone many changes in its relatively short life; the focus has moved away from technology as the servant of the humanities to an equal partnership where both benefit from collaboration but this is not the only change. From Busa and his collaborations with IBM, Medievalists and Classicists were at the forefront of using computational methodologies to study primarily text based sources in a context where Greco-Roman culture formed the foundation of much of European (and hence North American) heritage. As a result, DH has developed in a very anglophone and text focused environment with English as the language of the Internet and the lingua franca of the web. DH has, however, arguably been built on openness and a sense of community but historically has excluded many by its anglophone preponderance and focus on text based scholarship; the dominance of the English language is a barrier to inclusivity to non-English speakers. DH has been moving beyond these linguistic and geographical confines with the ADHO conference becoming more global and new associations formed in Australasia and Japan; in addition, we are now seeing more interest in exploring beyond text to artefacts and visualisations of culture and heritage more widely. Geographic inclusion does not equate to scholarly inclusion, particularly if language is a barrier to that inclusiveness.

This paper presents research on the growth of DH beyond the anglophone sphere, using China as a case study, and the challenges that cross-cultural initiatives present. The rapidly growing Chinese DH community, with many large-scale projects, established centres, publications, conferences, and highly active online social groups, remain mostly unknown to the wider DH community. This also draws on my research into cross-cultural teaching, examines some of the issues that become apparent when working across disciplinary and ethnic boundaries. The artefacts we produce are the results of our cultural influences, so too are the writings, our cognitive processes, and how we view and understand the world around us. Restricting our cultural perspective is restricting our field; inclusion benefits us all.