Photo of the cover of Roopika Risam's book New Digital Worlds My first monograph, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2018.

The emergence of digital humanities has been heralded for its commitment to openness, access, and the democratization of knowledge but raises questions with respect to race, gender, sexuality, disability, and nation. Postcolonial digital humanities, I argue, is one approach to uncovering and remediating inequalities in digital knowledge production. New Digital Worlds traces the rise of postcolonial studies and digital humanities as fields, identifying how they can intervene in knowledge production in the digital age. It further examines colonial violence in digital archives, colonialist dimensions of global organizations supporting digital humanities, pedagogical approaches that intervene in decentering the Global North in digital knowledge production, and human futures that reconsider how algorithms and natural language processing software produce universalist notions of the human.


“This book speaks to a vibrant and emerging field, offering a unique and important contribution to postcolonial studies in engagement with digital humanities. This exciting and generative study will instigate new dialogues about the relations between technology and power, digital worlds and social justice in a global context.”

—Kavita Daiya, author of Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender, and National Culture in Postcolonial India

“Our cultural record lives today in the still misunderstood flux between analog and digital media. What Roopika Risam accomplishes in this book is nothing short of unmasking the transnational forces that shape that material reality, and she does so in the very act of opening up a framework for the production of an anticolonial counter-record. A major book by one of those rare voices who transforms the stakes of the game not only through her analysis but in the praxis it points to.”

—Alex Gil, Digital Scholarship Librarian and co-founder of xpmethod, Columbia University

“Risam has accomplished the rare feat of crafting a monograph that is simultaneously scholarly, engaging, and applicable…. New Digital Worlds has a thoughtful and refreshingly different read on, and criticism of, digital humanities. There’s something to consider for people in a wide variety of roles, from librarians who develop (or purchase) corpora, to museum and archives folks who directly grapple with issues around cultural heritage materials, to developers who build digital humanities tools and projects, to scholars and instructors engaged with research and/or teaching, to students who are trying to choose a focus for their own scholarship.”

—Quinn Dombrowski, Academic Technology Specialist, Stanford University

“I am excited for whenever I teach DH or anything next, because I know that this is the book I will get to teach and explore with…. This should be required reading for all graduate students, and others. It weaves together technology, complexity, and what the humanities can and should do for world making.”

—Laurie N. Taylor, Chair of Digital Partnerships and Strategies, University of Florida

“The importance of historicizing (neo)colonialism and applying a postcolonial pedagogy to the discipline of the digital humanities, is that we recognize that new worlds were created before; before the Internet and the advent of digital technologies, for example the seismic moment of 1492. We then recognize that digital cultures do not necessarily re-make new worlds so much as rebuild and transform them, attending to historic patterns of colonial violence and exploitation. Risam’s work encourages us to confront these structural shifts and crises through the lens of the local and the cultural, refocusing our attention as scholars towards a more humanistic engagement with both the past the future.”

—Radhika Gajjala, Professor of Media and Communication, Bowling Green State University

“The arguments themselves were compelling, but I found myself captivated by [Risam’s] methodology. As advertised, the book was indeed equal parts theory to praxis to pedagogy, and I found this endeavor to be postcolonial in and of itself. I admired the way she took care with her terms, sacrificing no nuance in her quest for clarity and readability…. In her work, Dr. Risam gave me a model for the type of scholarship I ultimately would like to do.”

—Ravynn Stringfield, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William and Mary

“I would like to underscore the position of the author suggesting the necessity of deliberate and intentional action directed to disrupt the existing dominant structures, be they academic, corporate or cultural. It should be done in the name of protecting not only our heritage, but also the future diversity. This book on post-colonial digital humanities may be useful for a very wide public: academics in technology and humanities disciplines, digital humanities community, students and teachers, cultural policy developers and research funders.”

—Elena Maceviciute, Professor, University of Borås

“Risam’s book is the first of its kind and will likely be relevant in DH even after the structural elements of the digital archives it analyzes are upgraded or abandoned. This is because her contributions tackle issues surpassing specifics of digital projects by also focusing on what it means to be a human in the twenty first-century…. Still, the discipline specific chapters aren’t only meant for digital humanists; rather they are vital interpretations of the humanities as a whole.”

—Joshua G. Ortiz Baco, Ph.D. Student, University of Texas, Austin


New Digital Worlds has been taught at universities including Stanford University, University of Pittsburgh, CUNY, Northeastern University, McGill University, Texas A&M University, University of Nebraska, Bates College, Birbeck University of London, SUNY - Cortland, San Jose State University, University of Southern California, Bowling Green State University, University of Tulsa, and College of William and Mary.

If you adopt the book for a class, drop me an email and I’d be happy to arrange for a Skype visit with your class. Use the promo code NUP19 for 25% off New Digital Worlds when ordering from Northwestern University Press.

Link: New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy