Digital American Studies Initiative

The rise of a wide range of digital methodologies has fundamentally changed not only American studies and many other fields and disciplines in the humanities but the academy as a whole. Fueled by a broad swath of technological developments, of social change, and of new lines of funding geared specifically toward advancing the digitization of scholarship, these changes do not mark simply another methodological turn. Instead, they constitute a transformation that is here to stay and that has already begun to permanently alter how we do scholarship and how we teach.

In how it brings together the humanities and computer science, digital scholarship is, by definition, an interdisciplinary endeavor, and it thus comes naturally to American studies with its general hospitality toward interdisciplinary work. At the same time, digital scholarship is leading to new alliances and new forms of institutional cooperation. Digital scholarship projects now bring together literary studies, history, sociology, area studies, human geography, classical philology, linguistics, engineering, and they bring into dialog university libraries, special collections, archives, IT departments, private companies, and technology providers. Digital scholarship facilitates new forms of collaboration across the boundaries of disciplines and nations, but it has also already begun to limit opportunities for ‘traditional’ forms of scholarship and teaching.

As far-reaching as these transformations are, they largely take place invisibly, dispersedly, and they often go underacknowledged. The GAAS’s Digital American Studies Initiative (DASI) aims to change that. Its ongoing mission is to spotlight digital scholarship in German American studies, to provide a forum for exchange, and to advance the conversation about the role of digital methods and materials for American studies scholarship.

DASI perspectivizes the large field of digital American studies through four distinct angles—Digital Humanities as Method, Scholarship in the Digital Age, Digital Pedagogy, and Digital Culture as Subject Matter—to bring together Americanists with an interest, critical or affirmative, in digital scholarship projects to foster an exchange about methodologies, tools, best practices, partnerships, and their impact on how we do American studies. See our mission statement for more information.


If you are working in one of the many areas of the digital humanities, such as digital history, electronic literatures, studies on virtual or cyber culture, or if you focus on electronic publishing or the creation of digital editions or collections, please feel free to get in touch with us. We will be happy to advise you on access to computational tools, different approaches to digital scholarship, opportunities for project funding, and existing networks of DH-scholars in Germany and abroad. Simply email us at das-contact@americanstudies.de.

We are also maintaining a mailing list. Please email dasi-request@lists.uni-leipzig.de to subscribe.


Past Activities

Apr 2022: On April 1st, DASI convened a GAAS townhall to invite the members of the German Association for American Studies to discuss the epistemological impact of DH on (German) American studies, the mechanisms and economies of data tracking in academic publishing, the developments around the National Research Data Infrastructure Initiative (NFDI), and the potential of DH to push back against rather than advance a neoliberal academic agenda. The townhall featured presentations by Julia Flanders, Gerhard Lauer, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and DASI's own Alexander Dunst and Dennis Mischke.

Apr-Jul 2021: Between April and July 2021, DASI conducted a three-part Hackathon for newcomers to try out DH methods practically. The three workshops were titled: "The Politics and Practices of Digital Corpus Building," "Data, Methods, Tools," and "Words, Numbers & Meaning."

Sep 2020: The second "DASI Brownbag @ Home" continued the conversation started with the first such meeting in June. Where the first meeting focused on practical advice, the second one explored the different institutional responses to the pandemic at different universities in Germany.

June 2020: The "DASI Brownbag @ Home" on June 4th, 2020, constituted the first opportunity for German American studies scholars to discuss the impact of the Covid pandemic on their teaching and their research activities. With many scholars being forced to very abruptly switch to distant teaching, a large part of the meeting served to exchange practical tips on digital pedagogy.

Feb 2019: The Digital American Studies Initiative met in Halle (Saale) in February of 2019 to take stock of its activities so far, to plan future endeavors, and to discuss current issues of digitization, among them the Fachinformationsdienste, the developments around a Nationale Forschungsdaten Infrastruktur (NFDI), and a selection of (critical) DH projects currently under way in American studies in Germany.

May 2018: During the GAAS’s Annual Meeting, the Digital American Studies Initiative collaborated on "Workshop #7: Teaching American Counter/Publics" and hosted a Brown Bag Lunch featuring Digital Project Shorts.

June 2017: The Digital American Studies Initiative hosted the Digital American Studies Forum on "Accessing Knowledge in the Digital Age" as part of the GAAS’s Annual Meeting. The conference also featured a DAS-inspired workshop on Digital Modernities: America and American Studies in an Algorithmic Age.

May 2016: The Digital American Studies Initiative offered a forum at the DGfA/GAAS Annual Meeting 2016 at Osnabrück to discuss current DH projects, the methodological implications they entail, and the underlying funding structures in digital American studies.

Feb 2016: The Digital American Studies Initiative met in Stuttgart in February 2016 to discuss future activities. To mark its transition to a broader scope, the initiative, formerly known as Electronic Publishing and Digital Scholarship Initiative (EPDSI), changed its name to Digital American Studies Initiative.

May 2015: The Electronic Publishing and Digital Scholarship Initiative (EPDSI) met at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the German Association for American Studies in Bonn on Thursday, May 28, 3-4:30pm. The EPDSI refocused its work and renamed itself the Digital American Studies Initiative (DASI) to better reflect this new focus. Please see the Bonn Notes for more information on this meeting and on DASI's future plans.