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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The keyword museum

The Keyword  Museum

The Modern Language Association's project on Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments is a space-bending and mind/behavior-altering enterprise.  It will change the future of what is loosely known as the Profession,  the diverse arenas of higher and lower education, and the traditional work of social scientists and , most  importantly, of people in the hard sciences who think in combinations of mathematical symbols and natural languages.  The MLA enterprise, which is open for comment until January 31, 2016, is a 21st century companion to a still important 20th century print-centric tool, namely Keywords (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976) by Raymond Williams.

Forty years ago, Williams had traced how 155 words function in the English language  domain of cultural transmission.  He did not select "race" for inclusion in his book.  That is odd.  Given the blitzkrieg of "race" in American and European discourses from 1900 to 1976, one might have expected it would not have been ignored by a Cambridge University professor.  But the Western academic world is a strange place where omissions can be rationalized and theorized into non-existence, erased until they return home to roost. As a sidebar, one should note, using "evidence" from Google's Ngram, that after ebb and flow from 1930 to now, the frequency of using "race" has currently returned to its 1940s, 1950s, and 1970s levels.

Adeline Koh (Stockton University) has brought that prodigal child named "race" back to the animal farm.  Under her curatorial guidance, we are beginning to see more clearly just what kind of personification Race has been historically.  We are invited to interrogate the stealthy delinquent as an agent of psychological destruction, a victim of its own "affluenza."  Koh links race and technology.  She admits she has made a "deliberate political choice" in deciding that "any responsible representation of race and technology should offer challenges to and an expansion of how digital pedagogy and digital humanities are defined."  Whether her choice is absurd or correct is open for debate.

One might also be skeptical of Koh's claim that much vital digital work on race is unlikely to receive "the sorts of governmental, federal, and institutional support other less politicized work has,"  primarily because the work is done outside the academic factory.  But it  is probable that a network of surveillance agencies do support digital work on race by using code words that seem remote from the bogus concept of race.  After all, our nation is the greatest nation on Earth, and we the people  are  capable of doing anything.

Among the curated artifacts Koh offers for our review are African Diaspora Ph.D, Ferguson Syllabus, Mapping Police Violence, SAADA (South Asian American Digital Archive), #This Tweet Called My Back, Soweto 76, and Invisible Australians: The Real  Face of White Australia.  She provides her own NITLE Race and the Digital Humanities Zetro Bibliography, other related materials, and WORKS CITED for our inspection.  One must ask, of course, where are the curated artifacts pertaining to Whiteness, Hispanic Diaspora, Pacific Island Cultures, and the Hamitic/Semitic Middle East?  If Digital Pedagogy is the future, we need a better keyword mapping of why  so-called White Folk speak freely all races except the one to which they belong.         Jerry W. Ward, Jr.     January 14, 2016

MLA Source:  http://digitalpedagogy/

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