Kim Gallon notes that while work on racial, ethnic, and national difference is “emerging in the digital humanities,” discussions about “the lineage of Black Studies within the digital humanities are almost nonexistent.” She later claims that “precise definitions of what constitutes the black digital humanities are elusive” and that it is really just “a constructed space to consider the intersections between the digital and blackness.” Rochelle Terman similarly notes that there is an “uncertain relationship between Black Studies and digital humanities.” Terman notes that there are a variety of issues to consider: many Black Studies departments are resistant to new technology; many Universities don’t see Black Studies as part of the “cutting edge” work of digital humanities, and thus come to them last; Universities don’t always see the ways that race factors into digital humanities projects, and see contributions made by black scholars on digital humanities as separate from a more general understanding of digital humanities, “sequestering the distinctive digital humanities projects created by Black Studies scholars”; the stereotype that “Black folks don’t do technology.” All of this works against the fostering of a healthy relationship of Black Studies and digital humanities.
In attempting to construct the relationship between these two fields, Gallon suggests that we turn to “the ‘technology of recovery’ that undergirds black digital scholarship, showing how it fills the apertures between Black studies and digital humanities.” Recovery projects “help to unmask the racialized systems of power at work in how we understand the digital humanities as a field and utilize its associated techniques.” It certainly makes sense to me that we should utilize the techniques of digital scholarship in order to help us recover the role of the African-American in American history. The projects we looked at all help us to see this role. However, I think that claiming recovery projects as the main function of Black Studies within digital humanities can be interpreted as sequestering the projects done by black scholars. If we understand recovery projects as recovering Black history, and we see it as the work and main contribution of black scholars, then white people are potentially free to remove themselves from the work in two key ways: (1) this is a history of black people for black people, and thus it is not my history, (2) as a white person I do not need to, and indeed should not attempt to, do recovery projects that look at oppressed groups, because that work belongs to them. In the former, we see that those who aren’t black are free to remove themselves and their historic role in this history. In the latter, we can see that those who aren’t black may see recovery projects that look at black history as the responsibility of black scholars or they may want to contribute but do not want to speak for the black person or take the work that is being defined as that of “Black Studies and digital humanities.”