Decolonizing the Digital Humanities: Indigenous Arts, Histories, and Knowledges from the Material to the Screen

Since the advent of “humanities computing” in the 1940s, known today as “digital humanities” (DH), the field has defined itself as a convergence of technologies and methods that shed light on areas of humanistic inquiry – that is, the study of human experience and expression as mediated through art, history, music, literature, performance, philosophy, and religion, among other frames (Klein and Gold 2012, 2016). Over the years, DH has redefined itself in response to the “ongoing churn of digital innovation” (Reid 2012: 354) and changing scholarly paradigms, from sound studies, new media, and graphic writing systems to intersectional feminism, critical race theory, and Global South studies. As DH practitioners work to diversify and decolonize the field, we confront tensions between DH mantras and the beliefs of communities we work with. These tensions are laid bare in 2019, UNESCO's declared year of Indigenous Languages. Artists and scholars from historically marginalized communities do not approach decolonization in the same ways. African-American writers have used DH tools as an “ethos of recovery” to document their histories of creative work (Gallon 2016), while Indigenous artists and scholars in Aotearoa (New Zealand), Canada, and the US have developed policies of data sovereignty that regulate recovery and revelation to outsiders. Policies and practices in Indigenous communities of Latin America diverge from those enacted in the "first-world English-speaking (US and Canada) context)" (Duarte 2017: 5).

This conference thus brings together leading scholars and artists from Australia, Latin America, and the US to explore the possibilities and limits of digital decolonization within the context of Indigenous artwork, histories, and knowledges. All events -- panel presentations, keynote address, reception, and roundtable -- are free and open to the public, thanks to funding from the Page-Barbour Foundation, Buckner W. Clay Endowment at the University of Virginia Institute of Humanities & Global Cultures, Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation, Center for the Americas, and McIntire Department of Art.

Please note that registration closed one week before the conference. You can still come, though! Just show up.

Please click below for the full schedule of events, panel and paper titles, and links to speaker biographies. Questions should be directed to the co-organizers, Douglas Fordham (Art History, or Allison Bigelow (Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, Program committee: Adriana Greci Green (Fralin Museum of Art/Indigenous Arts Initiative), Henry Skerritt (Kluge-Ruhe Museum), Amanda Wagstaff (Indigenous Arts Initiative), Karenne Wood (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities), and John Unsworth (UVa Library).

Friday, April 5

All events except the keynote address will take place in the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation, Hotel A.

9:30 am – Breakfast (coffee and pastries).

10 am – welcome ceremony and introductions

10:30-12:30 – "Space, Power, and the Limits of Visualization in Indigenous Communities of the Global South." Chair: Henry Skerritt (Kluge-Ruhe Museum/Mellon Indigenous Arts Program)

María José Afanador-Llach (History, Universidad de los Andes), “DH Infrastructures for the Global South: Digitization, Mapping and the Reconstruction of Erased Indigenous Places”

Kasey Keeler (Potawatomi/Tuolumne Me-Wuk; Civil Society and Community Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Mapping Native People: The Intersection of Individual Privacy, Tribal Sovereignty, and Academic Research”

Kent Morris (Barkindji Artist and Curator, CEO The Torch, Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Program), "Indigenous Cultural Presence and Absence: Reshaping Ways of Thinking and Seeing”

1-2 pm – boxed lunches in Hotel A.

2-4 pm – "Indigenous Media and Forms in Latin America and Latinx Communities." Chair: Adriana Greci Green (Fralin Museum of Art/Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative)

Élika Ortega Guzmán (Cultures, Societies and Global Studies, Northeastern University), “Literary mestizajes – Print-Digital Books from Latin America”

Amalia I. Córdova (Latinx Curator for Digital and Emerging Media and Chair of Cultural Research and Education at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution), “Indigenous Languages Onscreen: the Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival

Janet Chávez Santiago (Zapotec Weaver and Language Activist, Fe y Lola Textile Studio), “Innovate to maintain tradition: Weaving a Zapotec (hi)story”

4-4:30 pm – final thoughts

4:30-5 pm – time on your own

5-6:30 pmMargaret M. Bruchac (Anthropology and Native American Studies, University of Pennsylvania), “Voices Carry: Reflections on Animacy in Indigenous Collections.” The keynote address will be followed by a Q&A. Dome Room, Rotunda.

6:30-8 pm – reception. Dome Room, Rotunda.

Saturday, April 6

All events will take place in the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation (Hotel A).

10-11:30 – Roundtable with 2018-2019 Graduate Praxis cohort (UVa Scholars’ Lab). Chair: Lucie Stylianopoulos (Research Librarian, Fine Arts, Classics, and Indigenous Studies, UVa Library). Coffee will be served.

11:30-1 pm – Next Steps: Technological and Intellectual Challenges and Opportunities

Comments: The Audience, UVa Data Science Institute, UVa Library, Kluge-Ruhe Museum, UVa Intellectual Property Office

1-2 pm – boxed lunches in Hotel A.

2-3 pm – walking tour of UVa campus and Arts Complex (weather permitting)