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A genealogy of digital humanities

Marija Dalbello (Department of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 26 April 2011




By reconstructing the genealogy of digital humanities through examining digital humanities projects and evaluative writings, this paper aims to identify core arguments related to disciplinary transformation and pedagogy in the humanities fields. It also seeks to consider knowledge production and transformation of a general humanistic attitude (the Humanities Program) in relation to digital tools. The paper also seeks to examine its perceived impact on disciplinary development, pedagogy, and forms of digital text.


The paper presents a literature‐based conceptual analysis of distinct and diverse aspects of the enterprise of digital humanities, by identifying their main foci together with implications of these preoccupations within larger discourses. The analysis is grounded in a close reading of 45 exemplary texts published from the 1980s to date, and 14 exemplary projects and initiatives. The analysis highlights several concepts with their underlying assumptions.


The perceived epistemological advantage of digital technology for new forms of reasoning is that community development has produced theoretical frameworks and shaped practical directions. The paper identified three distinct formations characterized by associated digital artifacts: prominent opinion leaders, foundational projects, and document forms (morphs).

Research limitations/implications

Research data are not comprehensive. Selected texts and projects are exemplary. The results and findings are relevant for the English‐language context and limited by a selective corpus.


The paper outlines a historical trajectory of digital humanities and the formative stages of development from the discourses of that evolving field. It also identifies constructions of technological advantage with implications for knowledge production in the writing of humanities scholars. The paper contributes to practitioner awareness of the history of digital humanities practice.



Dalbello, M. (2011), "A genealogy of digital humanities", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 3, pp. 480-506.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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