Notes from the Field: Digital Humanities at #DOT2022

Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft is the oldest association of German Orientalists, with most members’ research in the fields of philology and linguistics. The 34th Deutscher Orientalistentag #DOT2022 met on the campus of the Freie Universität Berlin (12-17 September 2022) as the #DMG’s representative conference held at intervals of three to five years. Previous meetings convened during 2017 in Jena, 2013 in Münster, 2010 in Marburg, 2007 in Freiburg im Breisgau, 2004 in Halle (Saale), and 2001 in Bamberg.

The Orientalistentage organize a limited number of interdisciplinary working groups and scientific lectures addressing a general framework. Open to all German and foreign scholars, participation is not restricted to the membership of the DMG, which gives DOT meetings significance beyond the German-speaking communities.

Among the specialized groups within the DMG holding their own individual meetings, DOT2022 featured a multi-day workshop on Digital Humanities to present current research projects based on digital infrastructures; additionally, scholars were invited to present their work as examples of the practical use of digital infrastructures in current research projects alongside the regular conference program on dedicated devices using hands-on approaches.

Beatrice Gründler and Alberto Cantera Glera organized the workshop, and I posed a few questions to them for #DigitalOrientalist.

Q: What was your intention with this workshop?

A: To not only raise awareness in the disciplines to digital workflows but to offer digital humanities projects with focus on the regions covered in the conference a platform for exchange and debate. Since there clearly is a lack of communication between disciplinary projects and DH, disciplinary DH-projects and disciplinary and general DH in Germany, the workshop aims for improving the state of the field.

Q: What brought participants to the workshop?

A. The opportunity to present their ongoing DH projects, get feedback and input on the current state of work, get an idea on what is going on in the field, get insights in the methods and practices in other projects, get in touch with other projects.
Q: In what way does your workshop build on established strengths?

A. There is yet to be a specific “field” of NLS and multilingual DH to be established in Germany, so although there is the established strength of a huge number of stakeholders in the field, a common identity similar to that of the DH / DHd has yet to be established. One could say that one purpose of the workshop is to find and establish this “strength”. Besides, there is the obvious location advantage of Berlin having several NLS DH-related projects (e.g. AnonymClassic) and a vivid DH scene with institutions like the ADA Center and TELOTA at BBAW. In this regard, there is an established strength.

Q: What were the workshop’s short-term accomplishments?

A: Bringing stakeholders from the field together, offering room and time for exchange, networking and visibility for projects
Q: What do you as organizers expect from the workshop in terms of long-term impact?

A: Ideally, a long term impact would be an increase in collaboration, communication and presence, especially in the general national and international DH field. In any case, a reoccurring DH section at the DOT and other conferences would raise the awareness of digital methods and workflows in the field.
Q: What would you like to do next?

A: Personally, I’d like to get rid of the label “Oriental” and connect the specialized NLS-DH field better to the general DH scene in Germany and internationally. There is still a lot to learn for both sides and I think it is important to establish a base of communication to make it one field with a huge variety of methods and topics, not two fields co-existing. I also think it is important, especially in a specialized part of the field like ours, to critically engage with power dynamics and colonial heritage, both in the general DH, but also in our own area of research (e.g. catalog keywords, provenance, dealing with multilinguality/transcription/domination of LS/…) The DHd AG Multilingual DH is one attempt to reach this goal.

Q: What would you like to see workshop participants do next?
A: Engage in collaboration and cooperation instead of retreating into their own domains without exchange to other parts of the larger field of DH.

Further information:

Anterotesis’ list of GIS Projects in the Digital Humanities

DHd-Blog, Digital Humanities in the German-Speaking Countries– Austria, Germany, and Switzerland

The Alan Turing Institute‘s white paper “Challenges and Prospects at the Intersection of Humanities and Data Sciences

the University of Toronto’s online resource “Current Research Projects” in the digital humanities

[I acknowledge joining #DOT2022 in partnership with MECAM IFG V “Identities and Beliefs”]

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