debate 5: the experimental humanities

1. Alexander Dunst opens the debate, asking how the rise of the digital humanities and their focus on experimental methodologies, may foster a new conception of knowledge and political engagement. Can literary and cultural studies learn from experimental science, as Raymond Williams believed? Read more: Alexander Dunst: The Experimental Humanities: Raymond Williams, Digital Data, and the Unfinished Project of “Materialist Recovery”.

2. Elahe Haschemi Yekani asks if there are ethical ways of reading in the archives of enslavement by discussing competing methodologies of “close” versus “surface” readings. Read more: Elahe Haschemi Yekani: The Ethics of Reading the Archives of Enslavement: Experiments in Interpretation.

3. Working with autistic children in the Cevennes in southern France, Fernand Deligny and his group of collaborators developed an intriguing cartography in his network of living places (1967-1986), a method that disrupts clinical knowledge. In his contribution to the debate on the experimental humanities, Marlon Miguel argues that the invention of this form of cartography contributes to a practice in an experimental field in which knowledge is indissociable from its performance: not so much knowledge on or of autism, but knowledge with these dissident autistic bodies. Read more: Marlon Miguel: To Permit: Fernand Deligny’s Cartography of Autism.

4. The question of the experiment (as the basis for knowledge production) is implicated in the question of who and what is recognized as a viable participant in the production of knowledge, in the boundaries of what is understood as “public space” and the politicized distinction of knowledge producers and subjects of the experiment. In her contribution to the debate on experimental humanities, “Experimental Inhabitations”, Sara Morais dos Santos Bruss argues that an emancipatory notion of the experiment lies in an experimental practice that affirms embodied genealogies within the digital and plays with the multiplicities these necessitate, resulting – possibly – in a democratization of the “private” space of digital infrastructures.

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