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Digital Humanities—Ways Forward; Future Challenges

Honoring David Kammerling Smith and the Digital Public Sphere; Acceleration?; Digital Humanities for the People(?); Infrastructure as Privilege; Computation, Cultures, and Communities; Digital Humanities and Generational Shift

Sally Debra Charnow, Jeff Horn, Jeffrey S. Ravel, Cindy Ermus, David Joseph Wrisley, Christy Pichichero, and David Kammerling Smith


Have digital tools and methods accelerated the rate of scholarly production over the last 20 years? If so, has this acceleration been beneficial for scholarship? This article considers examples of accelerated historical scholarship as well as calls for a “slow history.” Through an analysis of the author's own experiences with the digital humanities, it examines the advantages and disadvantages of digital technologies in the field of history. It concludes that online resources and digital technologies have expanded the archive for the historian and created new ways to reach other specialists and the general public. Nevertheless, historical scholarship must still rely on carefully crafted, well-argued prose whose production cannot be accelerated by new digital technologies, although recent developments in the field of artificial intelligence may ultimately challenge this situation.

In recent decades, the field (or, at times, discipline) of digital humanities (DH) has revolutionized the scholarly profession and beyond—and with good reason. Seen at times as a democratizing force, DH has led to the creation of an increasing number of open- access databases and scholarly publications, the launching of massive archival digitization initiatives, and the development of numerous digital tools that help streamline the work of the academic researcher, student, and educator. In many ways, then, its benefits are manifest. Yet, recent years have also begun to reveal numerous problems that could influence various aspects of our trade as well as what—and how—information will be available in the future. This article discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of DH and invites the reader to reflect on what we can do to help mitigate these problems.

Exciting new modes of digital scholarship have emerged in recent years, providing us with expanded windows onto the past. This process has been accelerated by somewhat democratized ways of digitizing and analyzing source material. A main issue of contemporary knowledge production using digitized sources is how power can so easily be reinscribed into access to archives. The choice to digitize collections, even the existence of collections themselves, creates a great opportunity for research but also runs the risk of reinforcing the privilege and worldviews that have shaped and continue to shape the very processes of digitization and digitalization. Drawing on examples of Western and non-Western digital scholarship, this article argues that, although the digital facilitates greater public knowledge of collections, when it comes to decolonizing our research subjects, it also introduces significant layers of complexity.

This article advances an analysis of the development and state of critical digital humanities. It posits two modalities for this approach to digital humanities (DH). The first is a modality of inward-looking, functional self-critique that comprises a rethinking of computational genesis stories, logics and methods, institutions and infrastructures, and digital capitalism, and the second is an outward-looking critique best understood as a form of situated sociopolitical engagement that embraces epistemic and social justice projects that are decolonial, anti-racist, inclusive, collaborative, and multilingual. Through these analyses, the article offers a vision of critical digital humanities in its mission to critique the ideologies, social inequities, and epistemological hierarchies that are built into technological products and computational logics and that are concomitantly fostered by knowledge- creation industries of universities, corporations, governments, and the GLAM[R] sector. In this way, the article shows how critical digital humanities helps us to envision the role that DH can play in processes of recovery, reparations, emancipation, and community-building.

Drawing upon over 20 years as Editor-in-Chief of H-France, I argue that the scholarly profession, established in Cold War era, pre-digital institutions, has only begun to adapt to the transformations introduced by the global digital humanities. A generational shift is currently underway as younger scholars more natively adept with digital technologies use their skills and forms of new media to press for changes in hiring and tenure practices, to demand greater progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, and to insist that the academy confront the collapse of academic positions in the humanities and provide training for and recognition of alternative career paths. I call upon professional organizations to undertake difficult conversations and take leadership in reshaping professional organizations for a post–Cold War, digital age, especially in terms of funding priorities. Scholarly organizations will best gain influence through collaboration.

Open access


Living the Dream or Surviving a Nightmare?

Cody Rodriguez


As an early piece of digital ethnographic work, this article aims to convey an ambience for full-time vanlifers who are supposedly ‘living the dream’ in Europe. A reflection of the causes and developments of the #vanlife movement sets the foundation for discussing overregulation of restrictions on vanlifers in England, which is juxtaposed to the joy of thriving nomadically in continental Europe. The resulting discussions reveal that for some members of the vanlife community, this alternative lifestyle is embraced to attain their own sense of personal autonomy, ontological security and overall higher quality of life in a neoliberal late-stage capitalistic society that has left far too many people alienated and struggling to survive the nightmare of economic uncertainty.

Open access

Affective Cartographies of Collective Blame

Mediating Citizen–State Relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Susanna Trnka and L. L. Wynn


In both Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia, COVID-19 lockdowns were enforced through public scrutiny of the movements of supposedly ‘irresponsible’ individuals. Denouncing their impact on public health created an affective cartography of collective blame uniting State and society in shared moral indignation. Produced through assemblages of mainstream and social media and government statements, such mediated spectacles engendered a sense of collective unity and shared purpose at a time when both collective cohesion and narratives of individual responsibility were of particular interest to the State. Spatio-temporal maps and diagrams of culpable contagion helped materialise the invisible movement of the virus but also enabled identification of the sick. Some bodies more than others were made to carry the morality of the collective enterprise of stopping the virus.

Open access

‘Anthropological Enough?’

Reflections on Methodology, Challenges of Doing Fieldwork ‘At Home’ and Building a More Inclusive Discipline

Ryan I. Logan, Laura Kihlström, and Kanan Mehta


In this article, we discuss how fieldwork completed ‘at home’ in the USA presented challenges and resulted in our work being considered not ‘anthropological enough’. Centring our article around our individual projects for which primary data collection was completed prior to COVID-19, we explore a variety of issues related to methodology and structural constraints we experienced as graduate students in anthropology and now as junior scholars. Drawing on our experiences conducting research in the USA, we posit how anthropology might move forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and foster a more inclusive discipline. By challenging the notion of ‘anthropological enough’, we reimagine ways of conducting anthropology that are better suited for increasingly uncertain times, which call for collaborations rooted in social justice.

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Bullfighting in Southern France

A Dispatch from Arles

Duncan Wheeler


Drawing on ethnographic research among bullfighting professionals and audiences in Spain and France, this report assesses the current health of bullfighting in Arles as a means to grapple with broader questions surrounding the cultural and political standing of this increasingly controversial activity on both sides of the Pyrenees.

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Does Gender Play a Role?

A Gendered Frame Analysis of the Pandemic Skeptic Protests in Austria

Antje Daniel, Markus Brunner, and Florian Knasmüller


After the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, a heterogeneous protest movement emerged in Austria that managed to mobilize more than 20,000 people to protest against the prevention measures imposed by the government in February 2021. The preliminary results from the survey we conducted in January showed that an unusually large proportion of women participated in these protests. In this article, we aim at exploring the gendered aspects of the protests through the use of a frame analysis. Against the backdrop of an extensive public debate on the gendered ramifications of the pandemic, we also ask whether experiences of double burden were incorporated into the problem definition. We base our analysis on a mixed-methods approach that complements the results of a quantitative protest survey with qualitative interviews, social media analysis, and data from protest observations.

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Focusing on the Child's Best Interest and the Rejection of Protective Measures

Antifeminism and Pandemic Denial in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rebekka Blum


This article shows how antifeminism manifested during the covid-19 pandemic and played an integrative role for pandemic-deniers. It first explains how antifeminism was understood and shows that antifeminist actors often used alleged concerns about child welfare to legitimize and morally enhance their own political views. Subsequently, the results of a systematic study of various antifeminist actors such as Birgit Kelle, Beatrix von Storch, Demo für Alle (Protest for all), and Eltern Stehen Auf (Parents Rise) from the pandemic denial spectrum are presented and compared to each other. Further analyses of the Querdenken protests make it clear that some narratives of antifeminist actors were also taken up by Querdenken members, and that in this way various alliances were able to emerge.

Free access


Protests of Pandemic Skeptics in Germany and Austria

Antje Daniel, Anna Schwenck, and Fabian Virchow

Since early 2020, the covid-19 pandemic has unfolded as a global crisis that poses significant challenges to governments and societies.1 Governments have reacted quite variably, with policies ranging from strict lockdowns over a longer period of time to flexible approaches with restriction of freedoms at very low thresholds of intrusion into citizens’ rights.2 While the pandemic does not affect everyone equally, and some countries are more advanced in containing the virus than others, the sense of vulnerability and insecurity is widespread. In addition to the 6.5 million people who have died from covid-19 as of late August 2022, many more are affected by ongoing symptoms of long covid-19. Increased economic disparities and new forms of inequality only exacerbate the degree of uncertainty and the feeling that life is out of control.3 However, the popular yearning to regain control has not led to an unambiguous “desire for the state.”4 Rather, trust in governments has fluctuated in the wake of the pandemic. If there was a “rally around the flag” effect, it was certainly not found in every country.5 Even if support for government regulations and restrictions were prevalent within a state, it was not shared equally by different parts of the population. In several countries, the pandemic has also given rise to substantial protests against the restriction of civic, economic, and social liberties, often driven by fears of state surveillance, libertarian rebellion against state paternalism, and conspiratorial beliefs.6

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Mainstreaming the Radical Right?

The Ambiguous Populism of the COVID-19 Street Protests in Germany

Michael Neuber


In Germany, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against the government's measures to handle the covid-19 pandemic. These protests started in the spring of 2020. What makes these protests puzzling is their unusual heterogeneous political composition and ambiguous symbolism. This article argues that protesters used the pandemic (and calls for “freedom” from restrictions) to bridge left- and right-wing movement frames. Importantly, though, the amplification of radical right strands of populist discourse played a central role in this frame-bridging. These arguments are supported by a visual discourse analysis using photographs of demonstrators and protest materials (N = 212) taken at the Berlin “Querdenken” demonstration on 29 August 2020. The implications of these findings for the mainstreaming of right-wing politics are then discussed.

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Performances of Closeness and the Staging of Resistance with Mainstream Music

Analyzing the Symbolism of Pandemic Skeptical Protests

Anna Schwenck


Performances of closeness—showing one's uncovered face, physically touching others, rhythmic chanting combined with hand gestures, and collective singing and dancing—were central to pandemic-skeptical protests in Germany. This article shows that publicly performing such intercorporeal practices can become a political act when governments and health professionals promote physical distancing and mask mandates. Moreover, it analyzes how pandemic skeptics used both visual and auditive symbols of resistance against past dictatorships that are popular in Germany's dominant national narrative to legitimate their protest and stage “the people.” Protesters’ invocation of a new totalitarianism closely connects to fears revolving around the erosion of representative democracy in neoliberal times and the emergence of a digitalized world ruled by mega-corporations that is seen to be threatened by anonymity and isolation.