In her acclaimed 2014 keynote at Digital Humanities in Lausanne, Bethany Nowviskie called on digital humanists to “dwell with extinction,” and in doing so, to center the material and ethical realities of the global climate crises in their work. Four years on–a time frame that feels both far too fast and achingly slow—DH has still struggled to heed Nowviskie's call. Major challenges to a critically engaged environmental digital humanities practice still remain, from the massive project of transforming the institutional realities that limit such work, to the difficulty of grappling with planetary scale, to the need to develop ecologies that simultaneously decenter humans while engaging antiracist and decolonial calls to protect our most vulnerable populations, spaces, and cultures. This roundtable proposes to navigate these seemingly insurmountable obstacles with a deceptively minimal approach: one that centers insurgent and transdisciplinary practices of engaging environmental justice across a range of DH work.
We convene scholars and practitioners from across the DH community to answer the question of what an environmental DH centered on practices of justice might achieve. What does DH scholarship, broadly construed, look like in the face of planetary extinction? How might our individual scholarship work to produce the collective organization and belonging we need to intervene on structural scales? In particular, we return to what we see as Nowviskie’s useful pessimism: how placing extinction at the heart of scholarly practice transforms its attachment to the racist and colonial infrastructures that characterize the contemporary academy. Finally, how can we navigate the practical quotidian, and affective challenges of environmental DH work? How do we center extinction while avoiding hopelessness and despair?
This roundtable has two ends. First, to generate possible approaches from a range of critical and creative practices among speakers and audience alike. Second, to stage a conversation within the ACH conference on the shared values that might help the DH community navigate these challenges. Each speaker will prepare a brief response to these central questions, which will then set up thirty minutes of audience conversation and participation.
Wary as we are that conference panels are generative spaces for thought that can quickly dissolve upon the conference's completion, we will record notes, ideas, questions, and future projects from our roundtable for ongoing public participation. An example of such a “seed site,” as we term it, is the “Critical Infrastructure Studies” HumCommons site from the MLA panel of the same name: https://criticalinfrastructure.hcommons.org/.
Topics that speakers will engage in their preliminary remarks include but are not limited to:
- How attending to atmospheric materialities in media research opens up new avenues for work in affect, racialization, and toxicity in infrastructure and manufacturing studies
- Speculative archives and what the Anthropocene means for archival practices that center liberation and justice
- Transnational critiques of border ecologies; considerations of extinction and climate crisis on migration and refugee populations
Roundtable participants will share preliminary remarks in English and Spanish.