We are excited to announce Catherine Knight-Steele’s Digital Black Feminism as the 2022 AoIR Nancy Baym Book Award winner.
Digital Black Feminism reclaims feminism for Black women and directly intervenes in Internet scholarship. The book is historically informed, considering how Black women have forged forms of resilience — including through engagements with technology — prior to the Internet age. It then shifts focus to more contemporary practices, developing provocative metaphors such as the “virtual beauty shop” and devices such as putting contemporary Black feminists on Twitter in conversation with historical figures. Knight-Steele also considers Black influencer cultures and the dangers of commodification of Black women’s lives. This book is deeply tied to to AoIR scholarship and pushes our intellectual community forward.
Committee members were effusive in their praise for this book. “Digital Black Feminism offers an exceptionally liberating perspective in which democratic rights are enhanced by the wide opportunities of the Internet,” says Arantxa Vizcaino Verdu. “This book expresses in an innovative and deeply personal voice a unique identity that today concerns women worldwide”. Robert Tynes adds, “Digital Black Feminism is what we hope for in Internet studies–excellent scholarship, innovative analysis, and salient vision, based on the most dire issues of today.”
Regarding the dire issues of today, the committee made this selection before the recent retrenchment of reproductive and privacy rights in the United States. We know that Black women in the US and around the world have suffered and been marginalized throughout modernity. The end of abortion access in the US is only a further exacerbation of this marginalization — Black women’s reproductive autonomy in many parts of the world was already highly curtailed before the US Supreme Court decision. Now, many poor women, especially Black women, will suffer even more, not just for lack of access to abortion, but through enhanced surveillance and even more precarious access to healthcare.
Enter a book like this. As Knight-Steele writes, “Black women consistently do the radical work of calling for the US to make right its promise of democracy…. It is time for the left to understand that the future of politics is women of color.” Part of this future needs to be learning from Black women’s innovations in the cultural practices of digital media. That can be part of AoIR’s future, too.
While the committee has strongly endorsed Digital Black Feminism as the winner, this was by no means an easy decision. The pool of books submitted for consideration was deep, filled with excellent scholarship relevant to Internet research. It was the committee’s privilege to read them.
AoIR would like to acknowledge and thank the committee members –- Nancy Baym, Jun Liu, Arantxa Vizcaino Verdu, Weiyu Zhang, Bjorn Nansen, Robert W. Gehl (Chair), Jakob Jensen, Robert Tynes -– for their work in judging this year. The Association also expresses thanks to Michelle, AoIR’s Association Coordinator, for routing books all over the world and keeping the committee organized.