2018 Keynote Announcement: Dr. Dhanashree Thorat

The planning committee for Network Detroit 2018 is pleased to announce Dr. Dhanashree Thorat as this year’s keynote speaker. You may register for the conference here, and we look forward to seeing you on Friday, September 21st.

Digital Infrastructures and Communities in Resistance
Dr. Dhanashree Thorat

In 2016, the United Nations reaffirmed that Internet access had become crucial to human rights in the digital age, and advised governments to both provide and expand access to the Internet to all citizens. In a moment when social media activism (ranging from the Arab Spring to #BlackLivesMatter) has reinvigorated community mobilization and political action, it seems even more crucial to remedy the global digital divide.

This talk historicizes contemporary attempts to develop digital infrastructures, and traces how initiatives to improve Internet access in the Global South are often mired in racial ideologies and colonial histories. Far from being apolitical systems with inherent benefits of equality and progress, digital infrastructures (and social media platforms enmeshed in them) can perpetuate violence against marginalized people and work against their political, economic, and social interests. Yet, I also strike a note of cautious optimism: while digital infrastructures can not resolve social inequalities, they have been powerfully leveraged by marginalized people in movements for social and racial justice. In taking a postcolonial approach to digital humanities, I ask how digital humanities scholars can become community partners and advocates in not only shaping infrastructural development but also participating in existing movements for social and racial justice in our communities.

Dhanashree Thorat (Ph.D. in English, University of Florida) is a postdoctoral researcher in Digital Humanities at the University of Kansas. Her research is situated at the intersection of Asian American Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Digital Humanities, and her current work focuses on how Muslims use hashtag activism to intervene in public conversations about their racialized bodies. Dhanashree is a founding Executive Council member of the Center for Digital Humanities, Pune in India. She serves as the lead organizer for a biennial winter school on Digital Humanities, and advises the center on digital archival projects and DH curriculum development. She has written about her experiences with building DH networks in the Global South as a HASTAC Scholar (2015-2016), and is currently working as the issue editor for Asian Quarterly, a peer reviewed scholarly journal, for a special issue on ‘Digital Humanities in India’ to be published in 2018.

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