Feminist Search Engine

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In collaboration with Utrecht-based art & research collective Read-in Hackers & Designers developed a Feminist Search Tool*,–a digital interface that invites users to explore different ways of engaging with the records of the Utrecht University Library, putting forth the question: Why are the authors of the books I read so white, so male, so Eurocentric?.

The tool has been developed in the context of the project Unlearning My Library. Bookshelf Research, and functions as an awareness-raising tool to stir conversations about the inclusion and exclusion mechanisms that are inherent to our current Western knowledge economy. To this end, the Feminist Search Tool invites us all to reflect about our own search inquiries, and how the latter may be directed by our own biases and omissions. More broadly, it raises the question about the different decisions taken that influence our searches: Who is taking responsibility for which part of the search process: we, the users, the researcher, the library, the algorithm? And how does this influence our search result?

The Feminist Search Tool works with a search field, which we all can use to type in our search question. We then search within a selection of the records of the Utrecht University Library of works published in the period of 2006 till 2016. The selection is made by Read-in and is based on a number of MARC21** fields, that Read-in thought would speak to the question: How many female non-Western authors and female authors of colour are represented in the Catalogue of the Utrecht University library?, such as language of publication, place of publication, type of publisher, ect. Through an interpretation of these fields, Read-in aims to offer different filters, through which to look at the records of the Utrecht University library.

The tool will be launched on the occasion of Zero Footprint Campus

Footnotes as written by Read-in for the website of the feminist search tool

  • Using the term Feminist Search Tool, it is important to shortly comment on our understanding of the term feminism, to provide a context, in which to read the Feminist Search Tool. Our commitment to and understanding of feminism is an intersectional one.
  • MARC21 (abbreviation for Machine-Readable Cataloguing) is an international standard administered by the Library of Congress; it is a set of digital formats used to describe items that are catalogued.

hackersanddesigners / fst / README.md




  • install apache solr, official docs
  • make two new cores, named readin-fst and name2gender, with the following command (ref):

cd /opt/solr

sudo -u solr ./bin/solr create -c netest

sudo ls -la /var/solr/data // check folders are created

  • run python parser.py making sure readin.xml is in the same folder

this should be the proper way, but haven't worked for me!

instead, if you have installed solr following the guide linked above, eg using the default settings and folder structure, copy the cores (name2gender, readin-fst) from the previous solr installation to the new one:

  • sudo cp -r <solr-old-install>/server/solr/name2gender /var/solr/data/.
  • sudo cp -r <solr-old-install>/server/solr/readin-fst /var/solr/data/.

then, add a new proxy pass in your nginx or apache config file:

  • nginx, inside the main server block:

location /solr {

   proxy_pass http://localhost:8983/solr/readin-fst/query;

  • apache, before </VirtualHost>:

ProxyRequest Off

ProxyPreserveHost On <Proxy *>

   Order deny,allow
   Allow from all


ProxyPass /solr http://localhost:8983/solr/readin-fst/query

for this to work, make sure to enable sudo a2enmod proxy and sudo a2enmod proxy_http, otherwise Apache can't do the ProxyPass and query the solr database (ref).

solr help

In case solr stops, or fails etc, try to simply restart it by doing

sudo service solr restart

it will restart the process under the solr user on the appropriate port (eg 8983). this is using the init.d process.

using solr APIs

  • s = string
  • t = text
  • i = integer

some refs on building query:

https://feministsearchtool.nl/solr?q=gender OR race OR intersectionality OR transgender OR "social class"&rows=150&fl=gender_s AND a_title_statement_t AND b_title_statement_t AND title_statement_t AND imprint_b

https://feministsearchtool.nl/solr?q=gender OR race OR intersectionality OR transgender OR"social class"&rows=150


  1. toggle your options (eg, toggle off all languages except the one(s) you need to use)
  2. click on Download and refuse the Save this file browser dialog (or let it go, depending on your browser prefs). copy the link of the download button (right-click, copy link), then in the home dir of your vps, do:
    • curl -O <dokuwiki-download-url>
  3. tar xzvf dokuwiki-stable-xxxxx.tgz
  4. mv dokuwiki-xxxxx wiki (or any name you like)
  5. sudo cp -r wiki /var/www/.
  6. change some files ownership for the dokuwiki installer to work properly
    • sudo chown -R www-data data
    • sudo chown www-data lib/plugins/
    • sudo chown www-data conf
  7. last, visit projectname.org/<name-of-wiki-folder>/install.php and follow the instructions
  8. sudo rm install.php
  9. setup nice-urls and this htaccess rules to put in /etc/apache2/apache2.conf
  10. setup correct file permission ref, make also /var/www/wiki/conf/ writable by www-data:root (eg sudo chown -R www-data:root)

folder structure

- opt/solr/ - /var/solr/data/ - readin-fst - name2gender - var/www/fst/ - var/www/pad - var/www/wiki