Blog Post

“I fell in love with the gears.” Falling in Love with HASTAC: Reflections on HASTAC V

“I fell in love with the gears.” Falling in Love with HASTAC: Reflections on HASTAC V


apologies for the various edits of the web links, and some of the prose in this post that prompted a few versions, i hope there were not too many emails. i am also confused how to place media videos within the blog post. any advice would be greatly appreciated. this is my first time posting with the new website, and still working out the new system. many thanks.


Dont Fight the Power, Be the Power 

"Difference is not our deficit; it's our operating system” —Fiona Barnett, HASTAC Scholars Director aka our illustrious ‘Nerd Herder’ 

“The waste lives for those moments beyond teaching when you give away the unexpected beautiful phrase—unexpected, no one has asked, beautiful, it will never come back.” — Fred Moten and Stephano Harney, “The University and The Undercommons: 7 Theses” 

Every summer in San Francisco, the  [[|Queer Women of Color Film Festival ]] provides an entirely free film festival that celebrates media works created by queer women and trans people of color. Prior to the very handsome butch security guards opening the heavy glass doors of the Brava Theatre, letting lines of beautiful queer attendees (you don’t get awarded [[|Best Voluptuous Visibility]] by the Bay Area Guardian</a>  for nothing!) + supportive family members, igniting  the buzz and hum of excitement that fills the warm carpeted lobby—before all this, the festival committee are reminded to do just one thing: say hello.  Greet every person you meet/see, smile. This, I remember QWOCMAP managing director Kebo Drew sharing, is a political act.  I’ve worked with the organization on various roles, and currently, I am their newest member on the Board of Directors, a position I humbly hold for such a vital queer feminist organization that has transformed so many lives, including my own.  Many of the film festival attendees are from low-income and immigrant backgrounds, it may be their first time at a film festival.  We want them to feel welcome. We want them to feel at home. We want them to come back.  Yet, I can’t help but think the excitement, an atmosphere that we jokingly describe of a super bowl for the QWOC community—is because of praxis, generosity, and recognition. It’s quite simple. It’s saying hello.

So I begin this provisional blog post on my HASTAC V with QWOCMAP practices because it resonates with what I find so inspiring and hopeful about HASTAC, as a collective, a network, a model for an academic make-over.  Truly, like I have learned from my involvement with QWOCMAP, HASTAC fosters not the utopian ideals, the  [[|“romance of community” ]]  what queer studies scholar Miranda Joseph critiques, but the active participatory building of community—oftentimes easy in theory but difficult in practice. But HASTAC V serves as a model.

I appreciate the message about the medium that HASTAC co-founder Cathy N. Davidson described in her [[|blog post on the academic makeover]] the hopes of HASTAC V:

“This year's HASTAC Conference promises to be both like and nothing like traditional academic conferences.  And that's exactly as it should be:  We all know that you cannot change the message without changing the medium. We all know that changing the medium inevitably changes the message.”

Attention to form, structure, and not only wistful content, HASTAC V and our host the University of Michigan definitely delivered and exemplified what is possible not only about a conference, but the future of learning institutions as a whole. Unlike traditional academic conferences (lets generalize for a moment: anxiety laden job applicants, stuffy provosts, and the pervasive sport of academic one-uping) HASTAC V was filled with incredible bouts of inspiration that Cathy’s post aptly foreshadowed (I’ll just cite a few here): the generative discussion with HASTAC scholars + such as Alexis Lothian, Amanda Phillips, and Micha Cardenas with steering committee members such as Cathy Davidson, and Tim Murray among others, Cathy’s inspirational opening talk which I got to watch like any great new media conference, on the big fabulous digital screen in the overfill room with my collaborators Isela Gonzalez and Allyse Gray from the Forensic AIDS Project, lighting talks by scholars such as HASTAC Scholars Director Fiona Barnett, HASTAC scholar now professor John Jones, panels by new media scholar–activists such as Lisa Nakamura and Konrad Ng on Asian American Studies, Tara McPherson on the future of digital publishing, Carole Stabile’s feminist publishing of Fembot, and the list of HASTAC fabulousness goes on and on…

HASTAC V was incredible, insightful, and inspiring. All of which ignites imagination and further action toward our futures. Toward a university structure that is not located in our previous century, but in our present. We’re not just changing the message as Cathy wrote in her blog post above, “you cannot change the message without changing the medium.” So if you gather a room full of digital humanists, technologists, and educators who believe in collaboration, our future is a future I trust to not only be okay, but spectacular (I draw from Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg’s collective written The Future of Learning Institutions in the Digital Age, and what Kundiman co-director poet Joseph Legaspi’s states on the future of Asian American poetry here). 

The thing is, HASTAC V not only subverted the traditional academic conference by the content of the talks and the structure of the conference, but also, at a very local, micro level. It’s kinda difficult to place, difficult to define and explain. Yet, it’s something I already knew would be possible. I had come to HASTAC V with my community collaborators Isela Gonzalez and Allyse Gray of the Forensic AIDS Project. We were presenting on From the Center, our collective participatory where incarcerated women in the SF jail created their own HIV/AIDS digital stories as a form of constructionist learning.  In previous academic conferences, as non-academics, Isela and Allyse had shared experiences of marginalization, even in so-called radical feminist spaces. So questions remain, how might we compete with an academic structure that rewards the tenured professor holding her new anthology on the prison industrial complex in front of her, versus the organic intellectual, a woman in the conference audience who was just released from prison, with expertise to share? I guess another part of this question, is why must there be competition, and not collaboration?  And how can we not only dismantle, but build new structures, new paradigms, new possibilities as Cathy points out, we need not only new messages, but new “mediums.”

In a traditional academic structure, the traditional academic conference, there are often not conversations, but lectures. Power is not shared, but secured. And unfortunately, something seemingly small as organic curiosity--not only intellectually or politically, but personally--is unimaginable.  

It’s quite simple. 

We Want Them to Come Back 

I want to share I trusted our experience at HASTAC V, because in all my experiences as a HASTAC scholar over the years, it’s facilitated an experience of falling in love with learning, with the digital humanities, new media, feminist queer praxis, participatory learning + all her possibilities. Our project From the Center centralizes the belief that statistics have a story, and need to be humanized, and that all people deserve access not only to computers, but access to creating with digital tools as experts, storytellers, and advocates of their own lives and communities. That technology and the “digital divide” is a feminist issue. HASTAC has served as a vital model and support for our project, which implemented for the first time, feminist based digital storytelling + HIV/AIDS education in a Bay Area setting of incarceration.  I’m humbled and moved by the kind words of support on the project, by scholars I admire very much, vital interlocutors and friends such as Alexis Lothian and Micha Cardenas, both of whom I met via HASTAC. From the Center’s presentation to the HASTAC community was particularly meaningful as our project emerged from HASTAC’s teaching, and principles as well. Mentors at HASTAC such as Fiona Barnett, Cathy Davidson, and Nancy Holliman have—from the inception of our project—served as vital support of the possibility of participatory learning in the jail setting. I truly cannot thank them enough. 

I shared with my collaborators Isela and Allyse that I was sure the HASTAC conference would be different from other academic conferences. I even emailed the link from Cathy’s Blog post on the Academic Makeover. But its one thing to see or read about HASTAC, one needs to experience HASTAC, or more aptly participate in HASTAC. The thing is, unlike any other academic conference even those that attach the words “critical” to the corresponding discipline, as if the word "critical" alone really changes anything. Im interested in how structurally that conference can change, how can power and expertise be shared? At HASTAC V, people not only said hello to those who are non-academics, but fostered meaningful connections that cuts across race, gender, and institutional positions. 

And to begin this story, it was on our last day in Michigan when my mentor and collaborator Isela shared, I look forward to next year’s  HASTAC conference in Canada, and coming back.

What’s Love Got To Do With It

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This "saying hello" factor, so uncommon at academic conferences, is just one example of what is different about HASTAC and the HASTAC conference. Because authentic genuine connections are being made through the spaces. And I truly believe people who believe in the possibility of collaboration, move through the world differently. But I want to return to the issue of censorship as Amanda Phillips wrote in her blog post about the discussion that occurred over Thanksgiving Break.  The issue concerned the initial censorship/removal of Micha Cardenas’ blog post featuring a flier of performance artist Elle Mehrmand—and Ill quote Amanda here, “We descended on the blog in righteous flurry, gearing up for what we (or I, anyway) expected to be an epic war of words with administrators who had maybe grown too big and accountable to public opinion to bother with scholars and artists on the fringes anymore/What we got instead was a respectful and thrilling dialogue that you can still read.” Reading Amanda’s post is heartening and I recommend you check out the entire post,  [[|“here” ]] 

What the issue demonstrated so clearly was, what could have been potentially a permanent rupture, solidifying “the romance” novel of a virtual community, actually demonstrated the opportunity for not only listening but a dialogue, and a conversation. And that is exactly what happened. The conference wasn’t only with senior scholars but open to all participants, like the HASTAC scholars who participated as well. You can read more about the HASTAC Steering Committee and the issues of censorship through the [[|insightful and astute blog posts and responses]]  [[|“and here]] by Alexis Lothian, Amanda Philips, Micha Cardenas, Cathy Davidson and others.

The possibility for dialogue across differences, a recognition and sharing of power, seems inherently resistance to the logics and modus operandi of the academy. It’s the kind of thing that facilitates a “falling in love,” as Amanda wrote on their experience of being in Ann Arbor, the experience of HASTAC V.  

I quote Amanda here:

“And, honesty, though I’ve been part of the Scholars program for several years now and have always been grateful to and enthusiastic about the collaborative community facilitated by the people and structure of HASTAC, it was in Ann Arbor that I really fell in love with the organization and its participants.”

“I fell in love with the gears.” 

In [[|The Gears of My Childhood!]]  the forward to Seymour Papert’s Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, Seymour talks about his experience as a young child playing with gears, and “falling in love with gears.  This falling in love with gears facilitated a learning that extended into Seymour’s adolescence and adult life. “Gears serving as models,” Seymour writes, “carried many otherwise abstract ideas into my head.” In the essay Seymour discusses not only the cognitive modes of learning, but the importance of affective contours:

“A modern-day Montessori might propose, if convinced by my story, to create a gear set for children. Thus every child might have the experience I had. But to hope for this would be to miss the essence of the story. I fell in love with the gears. This is something that cannot be reduced to purely “cognitive” terms. Something very personal happened, and one cannot assume that it would be repeated for other children in exactly the same form.”

Yet the personal, the hello, the access to the possibility of falling in love, is what HASTAC not only fosters, but provides structure in facilitating.  This is the love not of romance, but that kind that is real, and difficult, possible for conflicts but the kind that help us grow. Ultimately can be utilized not for separation or oppression, but a conversation.  As Fiona Barnett has written, and I include her quote above as an epigraph, for HASTAC:

“Difference is not our deficit; it's our operating system”

Fiona’s description of HASTAC embracing ‘difference’ is one not only in theory but of practice. What Fiona Barnett provides so aptly facilitates a culture of not only acceptance of difference, but embracement and shifts in structure, of difference as “our operating system.” Cathy Davidson has provided a fantastic elaboration on this notion [[|here!]]   

It’s not a romantic bout, a slight amorous flirtation, or a disappointing tyrst but love not only with the collective called HASTAC but Differnence. Different. A programmer-poet. A humanist who designs. Activists who blogs, and blogs fervently. Possibilities are endless, because human beings and machines are complicated, complex, and fascinating.  Like the late Steve Jobs’ famous campaign Think Different. We are different, and we’re not only okay with difference, it is as, Fiona writes, HASTAC's “operating system.”

Don’t Fight the Power, Be The Power


Free Speech activist Mario Savio famously said on the Sproul Steps in 1960’s Berkeley:

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

http://<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

(Here is a reenactment of Mario Savio’s famous speech by my presentation group in new media artist and professor [[|Ken Goldberg's course!]] Inspired by new media artist Mark Tribe’s [[|Port Huron Project!]] Mario Savio played by Performance Studies graduate student Omar Ricks)

This is one model of the university, the academy and of learning. But I’m reminded that HASTAC is transforming the machine, the binary of the machine-human, into the organism-machine, our cyborgian dreams. Instead of fighting with the gears, we’re transforming the gears, instead of fighting the power, let’s  be the power, as one student in my Queer Theories/Activist Practices wrote on her protest board above. Let’s fall in love with gears.

On Race, and the Future of Design

I want to end this blog post (which ended up more fragmented than I had hoped. But I feel fragments are just okay) with a return to the discussion Alexis Lothian and Micha Cardenas astutely pointed out, on the issue of race & equity at HASTAC V.  And some insights drawn from a conversation I had with former HASTAC scholar and now professor Bridget Daxter on engaged + digital scholarship.  

While I was not at Jim Leach’s talk, I too agree with Micha and Alexis’ critiques on what can be problematic in thinking about the “civilizing project” of the “digital humanities.”  I look forward to watching the entirety of Leah’s speech. However, I feel Micha brings up point relevant not only to Leach’s talk but the state of digital humanities and new media as a whole. As Micha writes in her blog, [[|in her blog]] and Ill quote her here:

“Later in the day I felt very differently about the keynote speech by Jim Leach of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which I was deeply troubled by. A primary claim of Leach's talk was that the digital humanities must take up a "civilizing project". I missed some of the talk, but I found this claim to be unacceptable. The talk revealed to me what deep splits exist in our field, to see a keynote speech that was so egregious to my own values. Certainly, if there is a need of a civilizing mission, there are people who are uncivilized in Leach's view. I was troubled by his reference to "our" conflict with "the Arab World", which seemed to act as the Other in need of civilizing. This formulation made a troubling conflation between "us" and the United States, a claim which I already have trouble accepting. 

Leach went on to propose a new digital class which would take up this civilizing mission, based on choice and access. This was, to me, a troubling conflation that smoothed over the fact that many don't have a choice to join the digital class because they lack access and often access is determined by social structures of inequality including gender, race, ability, sexuality, immigration status. Here is where I find myself firmly in the post-humanities with Donna Haraway and Judith Halberstam and many other theorists working to address the limitations of the liberal humanist subject and the way that it forecloses discussion of its own limitations, of who gets to be a rational subject and who is deemed irrational and uncivilized, often on the basis of the social structures I listed above.”

As Micha points out, recognizing structural issues and the digital divide which illuminate many people do not have “choice to join the digital class because they lack access.” As Micha and Alexis’ provide, it is also important to have more voices and perspectives from those not only who are of color, but that politically can foster and add to the pressing issues of the digital humanities, and bridge these digital divides, divides which corresponds to systematic issues of the rising rates of incarceration as Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg cite in The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. 

As Cathy Davidson responded to Micha’s post:

“I so agree that we must do a far better job (and I think it has to begin very early) at not only writing about race but making sure that people of color are not the recipients of tools and technologies that they do not participate in thinking through, developing.  You go to a developer meet-up and it is mostly white and mostly male.  This is a major issue that all of us need to be committed to changing, on every level from tools and training to theory and archives.”

Like Cathy, I agree that it’s not only access but that people are color are also developers of technology and tools. I thank Cathy for bringing up this vital point, because I also agree the issue is not only access or simply more people of color, but having more people of color to work on technology on many levels such as design, and development. 

Cathy’s comments on developers, reminded me of the design work that Micha and Ricardo Dominguez  and other new media artists created at the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab (Bits, Atoms, Neurons, and Genes.) at UCSD: the Transborder Immigrant Tool.  The Transborder Immigrant Tool reimagines design but taking on the pressing issue of migration, safety, and human rights.

How can we use technology not to further surveil and build the border industrial complex but to help aid migrants to safety?

The Transborder Immigrant Tool is one example of design and development for good.

Below Ricardo answered questions on the Transborder Immigrant Tool in an  [[|interview with Vice Magazine]] 

What is the device, exactly?

RD: We looked at the Motorola i455 cell phone, which is under $30, available even cheaper on eBay, and includes a free GPS applet. We were able to crack it and create a simple compasslike navigation system. We were also able to add other information, like where to find water left by the Border Angels, where to find Quaker help centers that will wrap your feet, how far you are from the highway--things to make the application really benefit individuals who are crossing the border.

The Transborder Immigrant Tool has poetry too. Poetry for survival:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


In my experience, it is true that political projects like the transborder immigrant tool wiihin DH or New Media Studies, may be unjustifiably considered too political.  Indeed critiques of the b.a.n.g. lab’s political work was under attack by U.C. and elsewhere. You may remember the possible de-tenuring of Ricardo because of his political activism, in which many of the HASTAC community signed virtual petitions to support Dominguez.

Instead of technology for profit, we’re thinking of design, of dh scholarship, of new media art that can address the pressing social issues of our time.  The transborder immigrant tool, urges us to reimagine the possibilities of technology. I hope for computers to not only sense to world, but to change our world. 

Das Kapital: It doesn’t cost anything to join HASTAC.

“In other words: what if people choose to pursue scholarly work not because they think it's a good living, but because they are seeking a way to pursue an intellectual project they believe matters––and not just to themselves? I know I've linked to it many times, but Fred Moten and Stefano Harney's The University and the Undercommons never stops being relevant. Critical content, radical content, is an excess in the university that we hope will slip the bounds of its commodified form.” -- Alexis Lothian 

Above, Alexis Lothian astutely returned to Fred Moten and Stefano Harney's The University and the Undercommons and as she notes, it does bear returning to,  often. As Alexis  [[|points out]] we are trying to acknowledge the excess of academic capital, and what I feel HASTAC fosters, the return to teaching, to learning. 

I want to point to what Fred and Stephano write on the importance of teaching within the academy, oftentimes lost within the building of the academic industrial complex:

“But it is teaching that brings us in. Before there are grants, research, conferences, books, and journals there is the experience of being taught and of teaching. Before the research post with no teaching, before the graduate students to mark the exams, before the string of sabbaticals, before the permanent reduction in teaching load, the appointment to run the Center, the consignment of pedagogy to a discipline called education, before the course designed to be a new book, teaching happened.”

The focus of HASTAC on participatory learning, fosters hope of the transformation in our digital age.

As Tara McPherson pointed out in her inspiring talk on [[|Vectors]] and The Future of Digital Publishing panel at HASTAC V, it remains difficult for senior scholars to evaluate digital scholarly forms, and to acknowledge the contributions of collaborative digital scholarship. McPherson’s talk at HASTAC V and her recent co-authored article in the MLA issue of Profession, is inspiring particularly as Vectors served as such a vital model for From the Center, and so many projects in the DH, and the importance of senior scholars like Tara, Cathy, and others speaking out about the importance of transformation of what is considered valuable in the academy, 

So I’ll end here with a conversation [[|Bridget Daxter]] and I had at HASTAC V. Bridget is inspiring for her commitment to engaged scholarship. It was a pleasure to present with her, and her colleagues Jon Winet, and Peter Likarish of the University of Iowa UNESCO City of Lit- erature Mobile Application Development Team (COL). As a graduate student, she shared it was a struggle for her engaged scholarship work to be recognized by the academy.  But I am thrilled that Bridget is one of the many HASTAC scholars now professors.  As we discussed engaged and collaborative models of scholarship, Bridget pointed out that people doing engaged scholarship are doing it not because of academic capital.

And I cannot agree with Bridget even more.

While not recognized as legitmate, at this moment those working on digital collaborative scholarship do it because of genuine engagement and commitement. While HASTAC is a community with values so different from much of the traditional academy, there are few spaces like HASTAC.

Personally, I've been advised to stop much of my collaborative and participatory work with From the Center because I may not be considered a serious scholar.

And yet, I cannot help but believe that community, collaborative, and participatory models may be the most meaningful way to utilize the resources and training as an academic. I am troubled, like so many at HASTAC, that participatory learning is not more common and rewarded within the academy.

But this predicament, as Bridget points out, also reminds me of a particular line in Fred and Stephano's essay:

 “The waste lives for those moments beyond teaching when you give away the unexpected beautiful phrase—unexpected, no one has asked, beautiful, it will never come back.”

Should digital humanities, participatory learning, and collaborative engaged work get institutionalized and rewarded through academic capital, can we maintain an engagement, and this is my crude articulations, questions and reflections, but an engagement that is "genuine" "unexpected," "beyond teaching?" 

I don’t believe in utopian disembodied dreams. And HASTAC is not perfect. Nothing is perfect. And perhaps this is why it works. Because HASTAC acknowledges fragmentation. And embraces difference. It's not our deficit, as Fiona offers. 

Although the Internet's initial utopian promise has its limitations, as Lisa Nakamura writes in Digitizing Race (and i love this so much)  "...we have a situation that is much more complicated, yet far from disheartening."

HASTAC helps with this vision. Karen Petruska  [[|has an awesome blog]]  about Cathy's inspiring keynote”  ” ]]  "Now You See It: The Future of Learning in a Digital Age"  And I couldn't not agree with Cathy more, especially after HASTAC V:

"If this group can’t do it, no one can." 






Margaret, thank you so much for this beautiful post, which fills me up with joy and belief in my work at a moment when I'm frequently filled with anxiety about how it will be received in the academy. And not just because of your many generous citations of me and others in our #transformDH collective!

I especially loved the way you incorporate Miranda Joseph's work. I think that many within the academy go immediately to what she critiques when they think about "community," and certainly those problems are often there––I have actually used her writing to critique issues within the communities I engage, both to community members and in academic discussions. But you also show how much more there is to the engagement than that critique.

The passages you pick out from "The University and the Undercommons" are so important, too. Maybe our work with technology, all our blogging and tweeting and documentation. aims to create the space where our "unexpected beautiful phrase" would "come back"? I have to think more about that; the beauty of the gift there is that it is lost to the giver, freely given, so lossless pedagogy wouldn't have the same gravity, I think...

Anyway, I love that HASTAC is a space where teaching is always part of the conversation, and even though the pedagogies under discussion aren't always feminist/queer/critical race studies ones, they integrate so well into those concerns.


Thank you Alexis! I appreciate your comment so much, and meeting you through our online interactions via HASTAC into real time, and out of real time... has been one of the blessings of being in academia. I think we "met" not only on QFNMS but also via your post about "The University and the Undercommons" on the HASTAC forum on scholarly practices and public access, I was about to post on Fred and Stephano's essay, and so that was just awesome! Its nice to be on the same wave length and just on the same page with folks on the political matters of technology, DH, new media studies. Truly its saved me, esp because its quite hard being in academic environments where being invested in queer studies is marginalized or considered polemical. true story but also, for another time and another forum. :/ thank you again for your comment, and i def love miranda joseph's work, and think its quite important and relevant. the chapter on theatre rhino always breaks my heart, because its *so* true how various lgbtq orgs create "community" but i also feel its important to hold onto the fact that many queer and marginalized folks, i think those invested in DH, need community to survive too... im blessed with the community we have here at hastac, intellectually, politically, and spiritually. thanks for being, dear Alexis! Till MLA! :) love to engage with you on joseph and more soon... xo


What a beautiful blog post.  I am amazed, humbled, grateful, and, well, tickled pink (or maybe HASTAC goldenrod).   HASTAC is as good as the community makes it.   We have a fabulous community. 


Thank you Cathy for your comment and all your mentorship (virtual and otherwise!) for all of us HASTAC scholars.  Im oftentimes dismayed by some of the politics in academia (or lack thereof!) the negotiation between fields like New Media and Ethnic Studies that oftentimes still seem dishearteningly separated.... But Im always filled with so much hope by the great work of HASTAC, the amazing people I've been able to work and learn with and from. Thankful for our beautiful community, and our continuous remaking, refashioning, and re-envisioning the posssibilities of academia, and at her heart, learning. Mentors like you, Nancy, Lisa, Tara, not to mention mentor-collegues like Alexis, Micha, Fiona and Amanda and so many others just make it all possible and model alternative realities. Brings so much light when sometimes, the week ends up being the hardest one. Im just thankful, humbled, and moved by the vital vision and the beautiful generousity of HASTACers, that give me so much hope and model what is possible. Makes it easy , as Amanda Philips wrote, to fall in love with HASTAC and the gears :) 


Your quote about falling in love with the gears is so beautiful, and I can attest that there was love in the cold wintery air in Ann Arbor. This is a beaufitul post! 

I'm so honored that you cite my post and work, thank you! I'm also so disturbed that anyone would dissuade you from working on From the Center, a project which I think is a model of engaged scholarship and critical digital practice! Although it definitely echoes my own experiences of being repeatedly discouraged from doing collaborative work, even by radical scholars with a history of collaboration in interdisciplinary settings. 

I think you bring together some crucial issues, though, about the future of scholarship and our own place in it. The question of our relationship to the unviersity, which Moten and Harney's brilliant essay urge to be a criminal one, is brought into sharp relief by the conflicts between emerging digital practices and traditions of academia. Something I've thought a lot about is how much we can transform this institution, the university, when most of the universities we inhabit were founded by rich, white, homophobic men whose goal was to create a place to further segregate and stratify society? 

Like you, I too am deeply encouraged by the work of people like Lisa Nakamura, Tara McPherson and Cathy Davidson who are getting to the core of these issues such as race/class/gender/ability, collaboration and emerging publishing modes. I wonder, like you do, if they are resolvable, or if they reflect a deeper conflict between the neoliberal, individualist, european humanist/rationalist foundations of the university and forms of critique and resistance that would rather see a world without prisons, in which people are not caged, categorized and written off into their boxes of A, B, C, D, F. 

Again, I am so honored to be in this community and inspired by you all. And again, I'm so humbled and so grateful to have been able to participate. 

My only question, again, is how do we move forward on these issues now, as emerging scholars who are looking for jobs but whose scholarship has the potential, hopefully, to create new paths? And as established scholars who are fostering these discussions?


Dearest Micha, 

Thanks so much for your comment, alas Im a bit late digital wise-- and wanted time to catch up, but have been so heartened by yours, Alexis and Cathy's comments on this thread. Indeed, I also wonder if the issues are resolvable or as you provide, they reflect a deeper conflict between neoliberal european foundations of the university. I think the part of Fred's essay that was most compelling to me, is also the connection of the jail of incarceration and education, ie the university and its structure is linked to the problematic ways we build more prisons + jails, and keep the university increasingly inaccesible. I think its important to be reflexive within the academic industrial complex and I appreciate amazing scholars and artists like you who bring this reflextivity to the forefront of your work. btw I loved your recent piece on Occupy LA, and I think illuminates the need for reflextivity and accountability, even within or perhaps most improtantly within radical movements. Which is why the revolution starts at home, resonates so much more with me, than revolution will not be televised, the revolution will not be tweeted etc. Im deeply honored to be in this community as well and truly inspired by you all. I cannot help but think about our collective panel at Queer Studies conference and the realization that we were all nervous to present for one another! I truly consider you a mentor too, and inspiration to me and so many others! Can I tell you how much I melted when you and Ricardo and Kebo along with Alexis via skpye gave your amazing talks at Berkeley last year?! It was just way too phenomenal. :) That was the future of DH and radical feminist of color critique. I think your question is so well taken, and Cathy provides a really amazing response below, which again gives us much hope and light. All I can say at this moment is Im thankful to work and learn with and from you, Micha and others like Alexis too! Love was definitely in the air in Ann Arbor! And it makes the journey all the better. 



I hope at our next HASTAC meeting that we might have a very informal session where people who are "big successes" in our field (Micha, you thank Lisa, Tara, and me so that would be a good place to start) talked about obstacles and resistance.   I don't want us to sit around sounding like smug old fouts---that never does anyone any good.   But I think it is really useful to know that anyone who has done daring work has been called a "charlatan" or worse at some point in her or his career.   I'm thinking of that because of this astonishing thread and also because I spent last night reading my dear friend, the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's, posthomous book, The Weather in Proust and then I spent another hour or two just looking through the Duke University Press catalog.   So many authors in this season's catalog are publishing, now, a second book and the first book is also pictured---and it was interesting to remembe how many of those first books were considered far too radical when they were written.   If the authors had listened to the nay-sayers, they would have left the profession, not had careers.   That is certainly true of Eve, who was unemployed and under-employed for many years and whose first work was considered way too radical.   I was on the job market three years too and not renewed in my first job (people actually walked to the other side of the street in the small town I lived in and on the small campus) because I was too radical.


The point is to do exactly what you are doing.   Find the friends and the organizations and the outlets that support you.   Learn from the nay-sayers how to make your own work even stronger.   But go with your passion and do the best work you can, nourished by your own flame-----because others will try to flame you!   They will.   That's a given.  You have to really love what you do and you have to really fight for it because there will be obstacles.  


This is a terrible time economically.   I used to say that I came out onto the job market in the single worst time in the history of our profession.   That was true until 2010 which beat the old record.  Great, huh?   In no way do I mean to minimize how tough it is, because it is tough.   I'm simply saying that it is a tough time for everyone and the passion that moves you to do what you love and what you do may well end up helping you succeed where more conventional people who are calling it in or doing it by rote fail.  


Okay, you can now award me an official Pompous Old Fout Badge.   But I still believe in fighting, in being strategic, and hanging close with the people I love and admire and whose values I cherish and champion.   I've had the most eccentric of careers and it is only in retrospect that it seems as if it was one reward after another.  I'm sure Lisa and Tara would say the same thing.  I know they would.  They are both still fighters too, not resting on laurels but continuing to demand and fight for change.   That's the main thing.  If you have a reflex for the status quo, that's what you get. 


Good luck with it all----and it's wonderful that you are drawing so much inspiration from one another and working to encourage one another.   No one says it will be easy, but with your luck, talent, and friends for when it isn't going the way you want, it can end up being pretty great. 


Hi Cathy, Ive been reading and rereading this thread and slowly moving through with good (digital slow) time to respond, because I appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions very much and wanted to respond with enough time. Thanks again for your post and for your kind suggestion. As Micha wrote, Lisa, Tara, and your scholarship + organizing work within and outside academia as a whole is truly inspiring to us. Meeting Carole Stabile at HASTAC  was also just wonderful, and its heartening to know projects like FemBot are being created to support feminist scholarship and work. It was heartening to see my brilliant collaborator Allyse on her journey to transfer to a four year university.  Being someone who was formerly incarcerated, university spaces has often not been the most supportive  (Allyse did not have a good time visiting Berkeley for a conference which almost ruled out applying to Cal, unfortunately) but meeting scholars and professors like you, Tara, Lisa and Carole was so truly inspiring, because not only is your works so groundbreaking on so many levels, but we're blessed by your generousity and encouragement. Im excited to see Allyse continue in her journey within higher education and to be someone to transform the university in how she sees too. I had total faith that the HASTAC conference would be different, and was thankful to know that it turned out true. 

If I connected our experience at HASTAC V with artistic collectives I've been part of like, Kundiman for Asian American poets, and the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project is that I truly feel HASTAC is different than most of the logics and culture of academia. As I had written, traditional conference structures had made many non-academics (not to mention academics) feel alienated. I know it may seem way too poet-sensative, but I do think it does make a difference and is somewhat of a barometer of the politics of the space, and how we can really reimagine and recreate of the revolution beginning at home.  Sometimes just having an encouraging conversation with a professor means one may apply to the university. So thankful to see you, Lisa, and Tara, and others like Konrad and Carole very much during HASTAC V.  

Your suggestion of having an informal conversation with you, Lisa and Tara and other senior scholars would be amazing + so heartening! I am always so moved to see Lisa, her scholarship means so much to Asian American Studies and truly informs my work, and thankful our paths have crossed often because in our investment in Asian American Studies as well. I have always been moved by how she moves through the world, as a model + mentor with such kindness, openness and support over the years. I can only imagine how it was like for her years ago, writing the first book on race and the Internet! Thank you for reminding us that it is worth the fight and loving what we do and one another. It would be amazing to have a informal conversation with you all, I cannot count the times I've thought, how awesome it would be to go to Duke so I can take seminars + classes with Cathy!  Ipod experiments! + This Is Your Brain on the Internet! I only wish! I just am in love with your new book Cathy, and moved by each chapter and the interdisciplinary model of neuroscience, psychology, and pedagogy. Interweaving your personal voice is incredibly moving and learning that Dongdaemun and high tech digital Seoul, to the purple gorilla and the basketball players co-exist--makes all the difference. Thanks for helping us see. Because there is often no map, no direction guide, and as emerging scholars it does mean so much. 

I LOVE all the books from Duke, as a cultural, feminist and Ethnic Studies scholar most of my many bookcases are lined with books from Duke, not only are they beautifully designed but always offers cutting edge intellectual and political scholarship, that truly shapes my work! Im heartened to think some of the most inspiring Queer Feminist scholars like the late Eve Sedgwick scholarship are from Duke and her theoretical work has meant so much to feminist and queers, and critical theory as a whole. For our HASTAC panel at Queer Studies conference, we were so heartened by Jack Halberstam's words of encouragement of our focus on "digital theory by digital praxis" (beautifully conceived by Amanda Philips as the title of our panel) esp as even at the Queer Studies conference we were doing something "new" by introducing DH frameworks.  I think its true and important to know that scholars like Sedgwick and Halberstam, and yours, Tara, and Lisa's work have been breaking ground and continue to break ground. That its not personal (our struggles, disheartments, and anger) but also structural...In my Queer Studies talk I did a rereading of Halberstams first book from Duke, Female Masculinity to his new book from Duke The Queer Art of Failure, and was really generative to enage with both texts and to read the continuious engagement in queer studies through Duke UP, which means so much. Thank you Cathy for helping us see. I realize I never fully empatheized perhaps, how difficult it was and continues to be. That we are all struggling but should continue to love what we do, and how we see, and hopefully folks would want to see with us. scholars like you, and Jack, Lisa all give us so much light to do this.  

I look forward to MLA and to HASTAC in Canada! In particular Im thankful for the wonderful mentors like you  and  colleague-mentors friends like Micha and Alexis I've meet through HASTAC which make it all possible. So many thanks. so much  <3