Intersectional DH in Europe?

Quick post, I need to finish a chapter of my thesis today. Here’s the internal struggle. Yesterday, I received a call for papers, for a symposium on Intersectionality in DH. That stuff gets me going. After taking a feminist DH course at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute last June, and attending an unconference workshop on diversity, I know there is still so much to be done. But, I am a white, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class, cis gender woman. I should not be the one to speak at such a conference. Then I checked the line up of speakers: mostly white women. Perhaps I am missing information here, as I do not know the organizers and speakers personally, and they do have experience with several of the axes of intersectionality. But I only see one non-white woman, so race is not well-covered.

This is the reason that many feminists avoid DH. We cannot ‘start with’ white women. If a group of white women talks about marginalized peoples (one of the topics), that’s like a group of mainly white men talking about the needs of women. The marginalized peoples need to be allowed to speak for themselves. But some of the women the symposium needs might not show, when they see who the invited speakers are.

So, what to do? First I thought, I need to find someone to collaborate with, who actually has the experience we need to hear from, so I can send something in. Second thought: why don’t I know any non-white academics? I need to expand my network. Third thought: I do know Dutch-Moroccan women. But, again, they are not academics. Can I include them somehow if I send something in? Should I send in a pamphlet with the title ‘Please don’t accept this abstract’ with the argument above, but expanded? Why are there so many I’s in this piece? It is not about me — but it is my responsibility to take action. I am going to need to get back to this soon. Ally in training here.

In order to talk about intersectionality, it is essential that we include a group of people who live what this means, who know what they are talking about. Being an academic does not automatically mean I can speak for anyone. I cannot even speak for all white women, not by a long shot. My own thesis is a very good example of how I talk from my own personal, fairly safe, experience. But I surely would not be okay with a white cis gender man telling me what my situation is. Back to the drawing board.

For more information, there are tons of essays on .

Image credit: Cumminsr at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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