Editors' note on the October 2022 issue of Reviews in Digital Humanities, guest edited by Kim Gallon and Kirsten Ostherr
Roopika Risam and Jennifer Guiliano
Welcome to the October 2022 issue of Reviews in Digital Humanities. This month, we are excited to share Part II of our special issue on “Race, Health, and Medicine,” edited by Kim Gallon and Kirsten Ostherr.
This month’s issue continues the important work of shedding light on the intersections of race, wellness, medicine, illness, health, and digital humanities. Particularly notable about this special issue is how Gallon and Ostherr have curated projects that are community-engaged and community-embedded. The projects offer exciting models for how academics, healthcare workers, students, and community members can work collectively towards improving racial disparities in health outcomes.
On a different note, now that we are well into our third year of publishing Reviews in Digital Humanities, we’re reorganizing and expanding our team to ensure we have the capacity to serve the needs of our community.
We’re delighted that Miranda Hughes, who has been our editorial assistant since 2021, is now Associate Editor. Her work focuses on production of our issues, including copy-editing, layout, and proofreading.
As of November 1, 2022, we are welcoming Tieanna Graphenreed as one of two Managing Editors. Her work will focus on management of the submission workflow for our open submission process.
On January 1, 2023, we will be welcoming Stacy Reardon as our second Managing Editor. Her work will focus on our special issue and partner workflows.
We had nearly 100 expressions of interest in our Managing Editor position and decided to bring on two in anticipation of an increased workload in 2023. We hope to also have more paid opportunities to work with us in 2023. Please stay tuned!
In the interests of transparency, the Managing Editors and Associate Editor receive honoraria for their contributions to the journal, which are funded through both Roopika’s start-up fund and Digital Humanities and Social Engagement (DHSE) at Dartmouth College. We continue to work on plans for long-term financial stability for the journal, with the aim of Reviews being independent of any single individual and/or institution.
And, as always: if you are interested in editing a special issue of Reviews or exploring the possibility of a partnership, drop us a note! You can also submit a project for review, nominate a project you admire, volunteer for our reviewer pool, and tell your colleagues and students about the journal.
Questions? Thoughts? Concerns? Contact the editors, Jennifer Guiliano and Roopika Risam, by email or through the Twitter hashtag #ReviewsInDH.
Kim Gallon and Kirsten Ostherr
Race in health is a critical area in medical and health humanities that considers historical and contemporary effects of racism on medical knowledge; access to care and treatment; and definitions of illness, health, and wellness. In recent years, research has exposed not only linkages between structural racism, violence, and health outcomes, but also the role technology and data practices play in perpetuating and ameliorating the effects of racism in health care. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of digital platforms for addressing these issues, drawing attention to digital humanities projects that predated the pandemic and prompting the creation of new work that addressed critical questions about the relationship between technology, health, race/racism, and humanity such as:
How can computational methods combined with humanistic inquiry offer transformative understandings of the relationship between race, racism and health?
What are the sources, processes, and presentation decisions that define digital humanities projects on race, racism, and health, and what specific parameters and functionalities are applied?
How can the impact of digital technologies on humanities research methods and approaches foster new theoretical frameworks and research techniques in race, racism, and health?
How can humanities methods and perspectives shape new approaches to race and racism within community-based, medical, and health settings?
This special issue features seven projects that both examine and use technology to raise critical questions about race and racism in medicine and health. Several of the projects were created specifically to respond to the crisis of racism during the pandemic, while others address the role of race and racism in other areas of health that predated COVID-19. As directors of digital projects inspired by the pandemic, part of our aim in editing this special issue is to explore approaches to some of the challenging design questions about how we can use technology to address structural racism in health care — issues that we had grappled with in our own projects. Kim Gallon, in her project COVID Black, and Kirsten Ostherr, in her project Translational Humanities for Public Health, were both interested in the ways that data visualizations had been used since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly how the stories of individual suffering and lives lost had been obscured by the prominence of quantitative data as an interpretive framework.
In last month’s issue (Part I), we featured the following projects:
COVID and Black California, a Black Voice News GIS Initiative founded by Paulette Brown-Hinds, includes a team that consists of Stephanie Williams, Executive Editor; Candice Mays, Projector Director; and Alex Reeds, Project Manager. The project was reviewed by Alex Gil and began as a real-time dashboard documenting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black Californians. In its present form, visitors to the site can view a snapshot of the first year of the pandemic from March 2020-April 2021. Created to address the absence of reporting on the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases in the Black community, this project highlights the need for data collection and visualization practices that center the impact of the pandemic on Black lives.
The Healing Histories Project, founded by Anjali Taneja, Cara Page, and Susan Raffo and led by Page and Raffo with a small team, is a timeline that not only tracks the global trajectory of COVID-19 but highlights how white supremacy and other forms of oppression shaped the US response to the pandemic. Reviewed by Yesmar Oyarzun, the project is aimed at illuminating the ways that the prison industrial complex, racism, xenophobia, and other structural forces have shaped the U.S. response to COVID-19. By providing a detailed explanation of how to use the site, a three-part curriculum, and discussion questions, the project provides tools that span from the personal to the communal to the global, highlighting the intersections across these scales and encouraging visitors to the site to engage in a practice of reconnection.
Stop AAPI Hate, founded by AAPI Equity Alliance (AAPI Equity), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University, led by Russell Jeung and Aggie Yellow Horse and reviewed by Anne Cong-Huyen, combines quantitative and qualitative methods to track and respond to anti-Asian racism that emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The project documents incidents of hate, violence, harassment, and discrimination against Asian communities through data and stories. By frequently issuing reports that summarize the incidents reported on the site, Stop AAPI Hate engages both policymakers and community members to increase awareness and demand accountability for racist violence in the U.S.
In this issue (Part II), we feature the projects below:
Josie Gill and Amber Lascelles’ project, Black Health and the Humanities, reviewed by Elizabeth Nelson, is an interdisciplinary training network and collaborative research initiative that developed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to expose how Black Britons have historically experienced disparate health outcomes that stem from structural racism. The project also explores various creative and critical engagements with Black health and wellbeing. Black Health and the Humanities supports PhD students and early career researchers by providing access to a workshop series and database of resources that foreground Black British experiences of health and medicine.
I’m Still Surviving, led by Jennifer Brier and Matt Wizinsky and reviewed by Dan Royles, is an interactive digital exhibition that features the oral histories of 39 women, including many women of color, living with HIV/AIDS in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Raleigh-Durham. As a public history project developed through a community-based participatory process, I’m Still Surviving models how to center marginalized voices, who reveal how their lived responses to structural racism emphasize health and wellness for historians of the current pandemic.
The Medicine | Race | Democracy Lab, led by Lan Li, Ricardo Nuila, Fady Joudah, and Pierce Salguero and reviewed by Amelia Gibson, is an interdisciplinary digital humanities project that de-centers the hospital as a site of medical care by engaging with and mapping interconnections among community centers, community clinics, and other grassroots services in the broader Houston region. Through a diverse range of multimedia projects that center the experiences of Black, Brown, queer, and disabled people, the Medicine | Race | Democracy Lab offers a powerful alternative vision of what “wellness” means, how it is measured, and how it can be understood.
Visualizing the Virus, led by Sria Chatterjee with the assistance of Ellen Ambrosone and reviewed by Olivia Banner, presents a network of thematic clusters that analyze the COVID-19 pandemic through critical aesthetic, historical, and sociocultural lenses such as “White Privilege” and “Covid Denialism.” As a project that brings together scholars and artists across different disciplines to explore the pandemic through an intersectional approach, this project offers new ways to understand the inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic makes visible.
The projects spotlighted in the issue also grapple with the interplay between narrative and visualization in calling attention to the ways race and racism shape health and wellness.
Both COVID and Black California and Visualizing the Virus rely on digital technologies to document the impact of the pandemic. While COVID and Black California uses ArcGIS Online to track Black communities’ response to the disease, Visualizing the Virus draws on spatial tools, animation, and other digital technologies to understand the coronavirus pandemic from diverse perspectives.
The Healing Histories Project aims to blend data and narratives, and the project creators acknowledge the challenges of doing so in the face of severe human suffering:
We gathered the stories and then, when we were ready, we merged the content we had gathered, the stories of real people that is called data, onto the timeline software and put it up on the website. By the time we did this, we already had too much information.
Pushing on this tension, I’m Still Surviving uses the aesthetic of redaction in its site design, visually emphasizing the gaps and silences in the histories of HIV/AIDS that have excluded the voices and stories of women of color.
Recognizing the need for both data and stories, the reports issued on the Stop AAPI Hate site present tables summarizing the numbers and types of incidents reported, followed by a narrative segment that includes powerful descriptions of these experiences, often presented as first-hand accounts.
Still other projects refuse the data imperative altogether, offering alternative frameworks for approaching race in medicine, such as the critical cartographies and soundscapes of the Medicine | Race | Democracy Lab, or the “art, film, history, philosophy, music and literature” that was the focus of Black Health and the Humanities.
In assembling this special issue, we were especially interested in finding projects that moved beyond — or did not originate in — the academic sphere and, instead, directly addressed critical issues of race, racism, and health in communities and healthcare settings. We invited submissions from scholars, artists, community-based organizations, healthcare professionals, and others who used digital tools and humanities methods to address the intersections of race, medicine, and health, especially those with projects that focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, we sought to consider how techniques used by digital humanists might also be employed by other communities who are invested in addressing intersecting issues from different vantage points. One project that exemplifies this approach is Healing Histories, whose directors identify as community historians and community organizers who are motivated by values shared by their academic collaborators, and who work to create educational materials for healthcare and healing practitioners and health-related organizers.
We hope that by bringing together this group of projects that seek to interrupt and prevent racism in health, we might help to build a foundation for future collaborations among academics, community members, and healthcare professionals. In addition, by emphasizing the role of digital tools in addressing race and racism in medicine and health, we hope to promote dialogue across humanities-based and clinical methodologies of data creation and interpretation, to move both fields toward more equitable practices.
Together, the projects included in this issue demonstrate the significant critical role that digital humanities plays in uncovering and raising questions about the relationship between race, medicine, health, and technology. The reviews provide deeper insight into the technical and theoretical underpinnings and processes of the projects gathered here, and offer models for further work. The digital humanities will be essential in investigations into the impact that technology will have on the future of health and wellness.
We believe that the projects in this special issue demonstrate the value of digital tools for examining race and health, as well as the centrality of health and medicine to projects invested in social justice and anti-racist work. These projects demonstrate how digital humanities can learn from and contribute to medical and health humanities, and vice versa. We hope that this body of work will inspire collaborations at the intersection of digital and health humanities, extending the reach of critical engagements with race in health and medicine through community and clinical partnerships.