Creativity within Revolt: ASA 2021

After a year of hiatus in 2020, the American Studies Association virtually resumed its annual meeting this year under the theme, “Creativity within Revolt.” The theme acknowledged that “Revolt is a condition of being in ‘America’ for those who refuse to (or simply cannot) tolerate its normalized domestic and global productions of state and extra-state violence” and encouraged “a rigorously critical conceptualization of both ‘creativity’ and ‘revolt,’ as well as an interrogation of what it might mean to inhabit the ‘within’ of revolt” (conference website).

I have been active in the ASA in various leadership positions of its Digital Humanities Caucus for the past 5 years. This year, as the Past Chair, I organized and moderated the panel, “Creative Revolt within Student-Centered Digital Humanities,” which addressed the hardships of faculty in smaller institutions who are increasingly expected to engage with digital tools in the classroom, often with little to no regard for the funding, training, infrastructure, and interdisciplinary collaboration required to create and sustain DH projects and programs. The panelists spoke about ways they have addressed such outsized expectations at small, teaching-focused institutions through developing meaningful pedagogy, community-facing projects, and student-led research opportunities for undergraduate students. The panel program includes the full list of presenters and the resources discussed during the presentations and Q&A.

The DH Caucus also organized a Digital Shorts panel, a series of flash talks in which participants introduce their DH research and teaching projects. Projects featured this year included

  • City Stories, a community storytelling platform on the evolution of neighborhoods in Singapore (led by Kristy H.A. Kang, Nanyang Technological University),
  • The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which creates resources to support the work of housing justice (led by Erin McElroy, University of Texas at Austin),
  • Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde, a website that employs feminist design principles in its aim to broaden understanding of the diversity of avant-garde production in the 20th century (led by Suzanne W. Churchill, Davidson College; Linda Kinnahan, Duquesne University; and Susan Rosenbaum, University of Georgia).

To draw more participants to our annual DH Caucus Business Meeting, this year we included a panel on Publishing in the Digital Humanities, featuring Friederike Sundaram (Stanford University Press), Sara Cohen (University of Michigan Press), and Amanda Phillips (Georgetown University, co-editor of Queer / Trans / Digital series with NYU Press). In this very informative panel, we got to hear from editors on their presses’ process of evaluating, selecting, editing, and publishing digital projects.

There were quite a few DH Caucus-sponsored panels, and even more DH themed panels–too many to talk about here! Overall, it was a great conference, even though it was disappointing not to gather in-person in San Juan, Puerto Rico as was originally planned. Still, the organizers did a fantastic job of pivoting such a large group of people to a virtual format at the last minute! I am hopeful that the ASA will be able to resume its in-person annual meeting in New Orleans in 2022.

Originally published on the Inside ZSR blog, October 25, 2021

The Queer Repertory

What are the great queer films? The project team of The Queer Repertory aims to answer this question through building a database of films shown at queer film festivals, thus providing a quantifiable claim for a “queer repertory” that has spoken to the LGBTQ+ population over the past 50 years.

This digital humanities project began with extensive archival research led by Jeff Solomon, the Principal Investigator. Gathering these data requires quite a bit of exploration and, well, research, before you can even do the research. Film festivals are events often co-hosted by various groups, so there’s not a central archive to visit. Additionally, organizers are often focused on the event itself, rather than preservation of historical materials, so things like archives of printed programs and updated websites are very difficult to come by.

As a result, the dataset that Solomon has gathered is an incredibly valuable resource for film historians and LGBTQ+ scholars. He has assembled The Queer Repertory project team at Wake Forest University to make this dataset publicly available using the Airtable platform. As a member of the project team, I serve as the project manager to organize the work being done by research assistants, librarians, and researchers.

In the summer of 2021, The Queer Repertory was selected to attend the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship (ILiADS). During our time at ILiADS, we worked with a DH liaison to develop plans for the next phase of development of the project, which includes pursuing grants for creating an intuitive interface for the database. We very much enjoyed networking with the 2021 ILiADS cohort and learning about their inspiring DH projects.