Interdisciplinary Study within the Digital Humanities

This week, I especially enjoyed Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s essay “The Humanities, Done Digitally” and its suggestion that the most pivotal and useful trait of the digital humanities is its capacity to encourage interdisciplinary work, both within the specific field of DH itself and within the larger realm of the academy. Fitzpatrick emphasizes the need to keep DH ‘plural,’ and to permit for overlap between the disciplines, even if said overlap appears somewhat messy at first. As she points out, “Scholarly work across the humanities, as in all academic fields, is increasingly being done digitally,” which therefore implies that all academics are, in some way, affected by the digital humanities, even if they are not ‘proper’ or ‘official’ scholars of the field. It was nice to follow up Fitzpatrick’s essay and her call for interdisciplinary work with Tara McPherson’s “Why are the Digital Humanities So White?” which demonstrates, I believe, the sort of cross-disciplinary scholarship that DH encourages and promotes. Yet I couldn’t help but notice that McPherson’s essay is something of an anomaly—although I freely admit that my familiarity with DH prior to this course was minimal at best, I can’t say that I’ve encountered a tremendous amount of work within DH that actively addresses issues of race, gender, class, etc., or other humanities sub-disciplines. That is to say, the interdisciplinary work that Fitzpatrick and many other DH scholars speak of and endorse is still largely absent within the field (at least as far as I can see; as I said, my experience with DH is limited and I fully welcome anyone to challenge me on this point). Instead, the majority of texts seem to be more preoccupied with defending the merit of the field itself. I wonder if this is due to the newness of the field and the need to first establish the contours, so to speak, of DH before more critical work can be performed. Thoughts?

(Again, I acknowledge that I could very well be speaking out of ignorance here, and simply have not researched DH enough to uncover texts that do engage proactively with other disciplines! So this is not so much a criticism as it is an inquiry)