In its March 2016 issue, American Quarterly launched a new section titled “Digital Projects Review” by way of an introductory editorial essay paired with the first published review in this category. While, in theory, the inclusion of digital project reviews as a regular feature of our Association’s journal of record would be welcomed by the ASA’s Digital Humanities Caucus, we and our members are disappointed and even angered by the execution of this initiative.
In short, the new section ignores the uniquely American Studies approach to Digital Humanities that has emerged within the field, often at the annual meetings of the American Studies Association and—for more than seven years—surrounding the innovative work of members and friends of the the ASA’s Digital Humanities Caucus. In its basic tone and orientation it ignores the scholarly contributions made by a diverse set of thinkers long working at the boundaries of American cultural and historical study in conjunction with digital studies. In its choice of personnel and projects it ignores the individuals who have worked visibly to create an inclusive, interdisciplinary, and alternative space for the pursuit of Digital Humanities scholarship within the ASA, favoring instead a misplaced and outdated conventionality much at odds with our association’s shared ethic.
The American Studies Association has long been a welcoming home for innovative, critical, boundary-pushing, justice-based, and experimental work—scholarship that takes a diversity of forms, that reaches and is produced by thinkers, teachers, practitioners, and makers from a wide range of communities and contexts. In keeping with this openness, and uniquely within the larger Digital Humanities field, the Digital Humanities Caucus of the ASA embraces inclusiveness and diversity: of topics, methods, theories, projects, and members. We are proud of the diversity of our membership—especially that so many of us are women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in a technology-adjacent field still largely dominated by white men—and we are committed to maintaining the Digital Humanities Caucus and the ASA as a scholarly home for our members and the work that they do.
We are currently working to address concerns about American Quarterly’s Digital Projects Review: the Advisory Board of the Digital Humanities Caucus is deeply committed to representing our members and ensuring that the community and its concerns are represented to the larger body of the ASA, and to the independent American Quarterly editorial staff. In this spirit, we have opened a dialogue concerning American Quarterly’s Digital Projects Review. Based on the conversations so far, we currently believe changes are in process that will address at least some of the concerns of our membership. We will post further information as it is available and take further action as necessary.