21 Jan 2021

Call for Papers: “Theorytellings: Epistemic Narratives in the Digital Humanities”

Theorytellings: Epistemic Narratives in the Digital Humanities

Special issue of the Journal of Cultural Analytics

In recent years, the status of the Digital Humanities (DH) as an academic discipline in its own right has often been discussed in terms of its theoretical foundations—or more precisely, the lack thereof. “The end of theory”—as proclaimed by Chris Anderson—has been a recurring narrative in epistemic discussions about DH for quite some time. While a number of approaches in DH may indeed be characterized as more practically oriented and rather thin on theory, there are also many examples that do apply advanced and sophisticated theory. Indeed, theory is interpreted very broadly in DH, ranging from the application of concrete reference theories (for instance structuralism, critical theory, etc.) to forays into the philosophy of science and the implementation of theories as statistical models.

Considering such controversial and ambiguous views of the role and function of theory in DH, this special issue seeks to bring together scholars from different disciplines to re-think theory in and its meaning for computational cultural analytics. Instead of perpetuating the narrative of theoretical deficiency, we suggest studying DH work through the concept of “theorytellings.” This way, “theorytellings”—on the one hand—become a methodology for actively reporting and narrating the manifold theoretical undertakings in DH, including the supposedly “untold” and “untellable” stories of DH theory. On the other hand, the concept serves as a tool for re-evaluating existing narratives in DH. Following Lyotard’s approach of meta-narratives, we claim that narratives fundamentally constitute and reproduce scientific discourses of legitimacy. Hence, we encourage contributors to discuss the evolution and consequences of epistemic narratives and counter-narratives in DH.

The overall goal of the special issue “Theorytellings: Epistemic Narratives in the Digital Humanities” is to discuss the theoretical foundations of DH research. This epistemic perspective adds to the current focus in DH on research practices, such as data and its modeling, as well as new digital methods, tools, and infrastructures. We invite new procedures and perspectives of knowledge production that are first and foremost derived from theoretical reflection. The special issue will be published in the open access Journal of Cultural Analytics. Guest editors are Manuel Burghardt (Leipzig University), Jonathan D. Geiger (Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz), Rabea Kleymann (Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin), and Mareike Schumacher (Hamburg University/University of Darmstadt). We invite submissions that address the following topics:

  • Theorytellings, including main- and counter-narratives of using theories in DH
  • Studies on definitions and different understandings of central concepts and terminology used in DH theory
  • Requirements for theoretical frameworks in DH and reflections of epistemic differences to theories from more traditional humanities disciplines
  • Interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks and their applicability/value for DH
  • Critical/theoretical reflection of established methods, tools and data in the DH
  • Use cases that showcase how theoretical assumptions are made (or explicitly avoided) in existing DH research projects

Please send your abstracts (300–400 words) and short bios to Rabea Kleymann (kleymann@zfl-berlin.org) by March 31st, 2021. For reasons of retrievability, please use “Theorytellings” in the subject line of your email. You will be notified of the acceptance of your proposal by May 1st, 2021. The full-length articles of up to 10,000 words must be prepared according to the Cultural Analytics author guidelines (https://culturalanalytics.org/for-authors) and will be due November 15th, 2021, to allow for timely peer review of the articles.

For further inquiries, please contact the guest editors Manuel Burghardt (burghardt@informatik.uni-leipzig.de), Jonathan D. Geiger (Jonathan.Geiger@adwmainz.de), Rabea Kleymann (kleymann@zfl-berlin.org), or Mareike Schumacher (schumacher@linglit.tu-darmstadt.de).