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

In recent years, the status of the Digital Humanities 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 being rather theory poor, there are also many examples that apply theory in one way or another. In fact, the concept of theory is interpreted very broadly in DH, ranging from the application of concrete reference theories from the humanities (for instance structuralism, critical theory, etc.) to forays into the philosophy of science and also the implementation of theories as statistical models.

In consideration of 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 the perspective of theory and its meaning for computational cultural analytics. Instead of continuing the narrative of the deficient status of theory, we suggest to study existing “theorytellings” in Digital Humanities research. This way, “theorytellings” – on the one hand – become a methodology for an active reporting and narrating of the manifold theoretical undertakings in DH, including the supposedly “untellable” and “untold” 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 essentially 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 foundation of DH research as an epistemic perspective that adds to the current focus on research practices in DH, which have traditionally been focused on data and modeling issues as well as 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 Digital Humanities 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 Digital Humanities

–       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 we ask you to use “Theorytellings” for the subject line of your email. You will receive notice on the acceptance of your proposal by May 1st, 2021. Full-length articles of up to 10,000 words need to be prepared according to the Cultural Analytics author guidelines (https://culturalanalytics.org/for-authors) and will be due November 15th, 2021, to allow for a 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).


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