Computation and the Humanities

Part of the series Springer Series on Cultural Computing pp 257-275

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.


Revolutionaries and Underdogs

  • Julianne NyhanAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London (UCL)
  • , Andrew FlinnAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London (UCL)


Taking the work of Passerini (1979) and Portelli (1981) as a theoretical backdrop, this chapter will describe, contextualise and interpret a narrative (or ‘story’) that was recalled in a number, but not all, of the oral history interviews. This narrative concerns interviewees’ experiences of having been ignored, undermined or marginalised by the mainstream academic community. For the purposes of discussion we will refer to this as the ‘motif of the underdog’. We will complement this analysis of the oral history interviews by looking to the scholarly literature of the field and examining a theme that often occurs there, namely DH’s supposedly revolutionary status (referred to below as the ‘motif of the revolutionary’). Our analysis will raise the question of how DH managed to move from the margins towards the mainstream while continuing to portray itself as both underdog and revolutionary? Drawing on literature from social psychology, the history of disciplinarity and the wider backdrop of oral history, we will argue that the motifs discussed here can better be understood in terms of their function rather than their internal coherence.