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DH Jobs in Crisis?

October 5th, 2013

Kimberly Hall

Response by Rochelle Gold

Every September, the new MLA Job Information List (JIL) offers a snapshot of the state of the field for literary scholars.  Roopika Risam’s recent blog post “Where Have All the DH Jobs Gone?” points out that in spite of the hype around digital humanities as the next big thing, digital humanities job opportunities are dwindling.  After reading through the JIL, Risam concludes that while a number of job postings, including 17 literature positions, call for digital humanities as a secondary area of expertise, very few postings seem to look for digital humanities as a primary research field.  As a result, she argues that “the explicitly DH job is perhaps the most endangered species on the JIL.”  To her credit, Risam specifies throughout her blog post that her results are necessarily tentative as job postings are continuously added to the MLA job list throughout the fall.  Nonetheless, it is hard to fully understand to what extent Risam’s point about the digital humanities becoming “endangered” makes sense without more context of the humanities job market as a whole.  We especially need to know how the number of digital humanities jobs compares to other subfields.  I accessed the job list several weeks after Risam to see if her conclusions hold.  As Risam herself points out, the JIL can be unwieldy as different search terms yield different results.  I will give just a few partial yet suggestive examples. The search terms “Victorian” and “19th century” yielded nine and 11 results respectively. On the other hand, “digital media” and “digital humanities” generated 27 and 32 results. My unscientific tinkering on the JIL points to the extremely harsh realities of the job market overall.  While the digital humanities job pool may be shrinking, this seems to reflect the broader trend of the disappearance of jobs in literature and the humanities.  Comparatively, digital humanists are probably still faring a little better than the rest, but, of course, that is not saying much at all.

Read Risam’s original post here: