Decolonizing Knowledge Production through Linked Open Data
In this open seminar hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s CDCS Digital Social Science Cluster, speaker Dr. Jennifer Guiliano presents: Decolonizing Knowledge Production through Linked Open Data.
Dr Guiliano is a digital scholarship visiting fellow at Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at The University of Edinburgh, an Associate Professor in the Department of History and affiliated faculty in both Native American and Indigenous Studies and American Studies at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana.
A hallmark of the North American colonial process was the production and dissemination of knowledge about Indigenous peoples through the journals and records of colonizers. The violent, and virulent, practices that led to widespread disease, genocide, trauma, and displacement in the Americas were bolstered by data collection and distribution that relied upon physical death and cultural destruction of Indigenous peoples. Equally as damaging were 20th century preservation efforts by non-Indigenous peoples that form the core of most cultural heritage collections. Analog archival collections about Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous peoples were constructed through “salvage” ethnography which sought to document “disappearing” peoples. Collectors, anthropologists, and historians embarked on decades-long collecting efforts that led to the extraction (forcibly and otherwise) of cultural objects, knowledge, and even physical bodies from Native communities. They created the data culture that most historians operate within as they work with indigenous materials. Historians are struggling to connect data and decolonize data practices so that they align with indigenous communities and their ways of knowing. This becomes further complicated by the fact that an overwhelming amount of historical data is held by colonial repositories and not Native communities who have different epistemological and cultural priorities.
There are general ethical and epistemological issues that researchers need to be attentive to when exposing historical materials (esp. photographs, documents, and artifacts) authored by and about indigenous peoples. First and foremost, there is the issue of identity politics: who has the right to speak for/about whom and what role should non-members play in articulating a community’s history, authority, or beliefs? Significantly, in colonial-centric collections, only legal access is required and/or commonly completed. Every community, every tribe, and even a single family might differ in their sense of what is appropriate for research or reuse and dissemination. When national borders divide those families, the question of research ethics becomes more complex. Can linked open data account for any of these issues or does it rely on colonial systems of knowledge production that cannot be teased apart from issues of rights and access? This presentation will highlight preliminary answers to these questions while seeking to present a vision of what a collaborative, shared authority model of Indigenous digital humanities and digital history would look like.
This video created The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Data, Culture & Society, is available under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 licence.
Header Image: Screenshot from the open lecture