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

Layal Mohammad's picture
May 14, 2021
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Digital Humanities, Library and Information Science, Middle East History / Studies, South Asian History / Studies

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.

Dr Sharon Smith will lead this international panel in examining practitioners' ethical responsibilities beyond the realm of preservation and sustainability, both critical to DH writ large. 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.

Register now and join us online via Zoom.


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. She has served on numerous committees and boards including as a Participating Expert for UNESCO’s Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural Heritage Committee. Currently, she is a Fellow at the Tangier American Legation in Morocco (TALIM).


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). Also, he is a member of the Islamic Manuscript Association, University of Cambridge. Dr Ghali received his PhD from Cairo University, Faculty of Arts in 2012. His current research projects focus on the Islamic manuscript traditions, particularly in Arabic script, and the history of books.


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. Gopal has reported extensively on Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, writing for Harpers, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications, while also producing scholarship based on his fieldwork and complex network analysis.

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 with the Ministry of Culture and Arts in Algeria and regionally in the Maghreb. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Cultural Capital Group, consulting with clients across the cultural heritage, communications, and library sectors.

Date and Time:

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


Aga Khan Library, London.


Register now and join us online via Zoom.

Contact Info: 



Layal Mohammad

Senior Coordinator, Marketing & Communications

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

The Aga Khan University (International)

Aga Khan Centre, 10 Handyside Street, London N1C 4DN

Tel: +44 [0] 20 7380 3839

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