SHOT Joint Session

Histories of Data and the Data of History


Joy Lisi Rankin

New York University


David Singerman

University of Virginia


Session Abstract

This roundtable explores meanings of and slippage among the terms data/database/sources/archives and examines the role that historians (and historical actors) play in choosing sources and deciding what becomes “data” in the practice of history. Since the terms data/database/sources/archives are all historically contingent, context-dependent, and enmeshed in structures of gender, race, and power, this roundtable provides a space for historians to consider their own roles in shaping sources, archives, and the field, as well as to examine how historical actors have made such decisions about their data.

Leah Gordon considers what was political about the social scientific method during the Great Society. Joy Lisi Rankin explores “risky research” starting with Samantha Muka’s question: “How can historians maintain a foothold studying a field in which they publish findings that do not mirror the approved historical narrative of their subjects?” Rankin, Muka, and Megan Formato all address the repeated and ongoing erasures of women and people of color from histories of science, technology, and data, in the realms of – respectively –computing, marine biology, and quantum physics. Michael McGovern inquires of the Long History of Civil Rights: “How did bureaucrats and lawyers decide what and how to count” with an eye to the “battlegrounds of race, gender, and notions of merit,” while Kathleen Sheppard uses Egyptology to illuminate the implicit heteronormativity of scholars failing to acknowledge the range of possible couples’ relationships in knowledge production.

Presenter 1

Kathleen Sheppard

Missouri S & T

Presenter 2

Samantha Muka

Stevens Institute of Technology

Presenter 3

Megan Formato

Stanford University

Presenter 4

Michael McGovern

Princeton University

Presenter 6

Joy Lisi Rankin

New York University