[PAST EVENT] Lecture: ?The (Digital) Souls of Black Folk: Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities?

October 24, 2016
Tucker Hall, 127A
350 James Blair Dr
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location

In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois poses the question that defines lived experience along the global color line: "How does it feel to be a problem?? Black bodies have been subject to this question historically, culturally, and politically, positioned as figures of disruption in a range of discourses, including literary and historical canons. As digital spaces increasingly become the ones in which the cultural memory of humanity is preserved, where is the place for the literature, history, and culture of the African diaspora? Within digital humanities scholarship, race, along with other axes of identity and oppression, has been positioned as a ?problem? itself, when it is acknowledged at all. It can be one of representation - not enough digitized material or scholars of color. Or, it can be a matter of funding - not enough grant programs to fund expensive projects or money to preserve ?minority? cultures. Yet, how can we reframe ?problem,? in this context, as a set of methodological challenges with affordances for not only digital cultural memory of the African diaspora but also digital humanities methods themselves. This talk explores the possibilities of such a productive reframing at the nexus of methodology, culture, language, and citizenship. Exploring a range of digital humanities methods, Risam considers the technical hurdles when examining race in large-scale data analysis; the fraught task of negotiating absences, silences, and gaps within digital archives; the influences of multilingualism and transnationalism on digital cultural memory; and the colonial politics of representation in digital humanities work. By addressing these ?problems,? she argues, digital humanities is better situated to preserve the (digital) souls of black folk while being methodologically enriched by the process of grappling with them.