Interrupted and Restricted: Digital Humanities and Ethics in a Time of Crisis

Interrupted and restricted, research and resulting scholarship has taken a decided turn to the digital to provide materials in the age of COVID-19. In academia, we have seen requests for digital materials at an unprecedented rate. In turn, we have seen an overwhelming response from libraries, museums, publishers, and more to fill the gap, but at what cost? Even in this time, we must stop to consider the ethical implications of digitised data/information, freely open to any and all vis-à-vis sensitivity and safety for those involved. Is the new model good enough to ensure an understanding of ethics and data stewardship in this swiftly shifting digital landscape?

This panel seeks to address not only the forward facing aspects of digital humanities (DH), ensuring access to researchers, students, and scholars, but also takes a step back to question the ethics and implications of what is disseminated via the virtual vis-à-vis human rights.

The panel will focus on DH in MENASA regions and examine:

  1. The politics of digitisation in light of digital divide, accessibility, and digital colonialism.
  2. The successes and failures of DH praxes within cultural heritage organisations with regard to identification (objects and sites), looting, commodification, and illegal exchange of materials.
  3. As stewards of materials in their possession, what ethical obligation they have to “do no harm” and what that means for a politically charged collection, the release of which could be seen as contributing to a humanitarian crisis.


Sharon Smith is an Associate Academic serving as Curator for the Middle East, North Africa, Global South, History, and Religion at ASU Library. Smith is engaged in projects at ASU with the Institute for Humanities Research, the Center for Religion and Conflict, and the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies.


Walid Ghali is the Head of the Aga Khan Library, London, Associate Professor at the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and a Chartered Librarian of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).


John Carlson is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University where he directs the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and co-directs the Recovering Truth project. He is currently working on two books: a monograph on justice and an edited collection on religion and global citizenship.

Anand Gopal is an award-winning journalist and Assistant Research Professor with the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University. He holds a PhD in sociology from Columbia University, and specialises in ethnographically based data journalism.

Peter Herdrich is the Co-founder of the Antiquities Coalition, the pre-eminent international NGO in the fight against the looting and illicit trade in cultural heritage property. He currently oversees publishing at the Antiquities Coalition Think Tank and directs digital cultural heritage projects.

Date & Time:

Friday 14 May 2021, 16:30-18:30 London.


Aga Khan Library, London.

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