Beginning in January 2018, AADHum will partner with the University of Maryland’s First-Year Innovation & Research (FIRE) program, which seeks to provide first-year, undergraduate students an authentic research experience, broad mentorship, and institutional connections that impact academic success, personal resilience, and professional development.
AADHum will enrich the FIRE program with two research streams, entitled AADHum: Digital Storytelling and AADHum: Digital Archives. Led by Jovonne J. Bickerstaff and Jessica Lu, respectively, these courses will allow UMD undergraduates an opportunity to explore and develop their own research at the intersections of African American history, culture, and digital humanities.
Interested undergraduates can learn more about joining FIRE here.
Faculty Leader: Dr. Catherine Knight Steele
Research Educator: Dr. Jovonne J. Bickerstaff
“To create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become… How [stories] are told, who tells them, when they’re told… [are] dependent on power … the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” —Chimamanda Adichie
This FIRE stream builds on the AADHum Initiative’s mission to prepare the next generation of scholars by mobilizing digital theories, methods and tools to enrich explorations of African American experience. Drawing on one of the Initiative’s central themes—migration—it helps students examine how ideas and narratives circulate in American society, rising to prominence and falling out of vogue. We will consider: Who gets to set the narrative for a group, community or nation—and why? How do the stories we’re told impact how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves? Most importantly, how can we use digital methods to imagine, produce, share more and varied narratives to disrupt the “single story” and to expand narratives in our fields?
In the first semester, students become critical analysts of historical and contemporary narratives, tracing the migration of stories about gender, marriage and family in texts, film, audio and interactive media. Learning digital methods, they will explore narratives of “black love” that emerged in the age of Obama, as well as interrogate “single stories” of black relationships (e.g. gender wars, “broken” families, (ir)responsible fatherhood) and how African Americans’ are obscured in other love narratives (e.g. romance, the “All-American” family, enduring marriages). The second semester challenges students to become producers of digital narratives—collecting and developing original data in written, audio and visual formats to develop narrative projects that re-frame familiar stories or reveal little known events and figures. Students will gain experience in methods including interviewing, transcribing, coding, word mapping database development and narrative construction as they create and curate digital oral history archives, multi-media dialogues and digital exhibitions. Ultimately, students will begin developing their own perspectives on the productive power of narrative as a tool of agency and social change.
Faculty Leader: Dr. Catherine Knight Steele
Research Educator: Jessica Lu
“… liberatory archives are not things so much as they are processes. Understanding them, then, is not a ‘what’ question as much as a ‘how’ question.” —Jarrett M. Drake
We live, work, and play online. With every click, “like,” tweet, Instagram, snap, and post, we’re creating and leaving behind a digital imprint that reaches far beyond our own personal networks. This stream builds on the core work of the African American Digital Humanities Initiative (AADHum) by exposing students to practices for creating and for conducting research in archives, providing them the skills to build their own digital archive, and cultivating the critical sensibilities to explore how online practices can have lasting consequences for social change.
For black and African Americans, whose voices have historically been silenced in traditional institutional archives, digital spaces can provide an opportunity for creative expression and argument that challenges dominant narratives. Situating itself at the intersections of African American history, rhetoric, and digital humanities, this research project considers how black and African Americans create and engage in digital spaces that resist oppression, centralize blackness, and argue for freedom. Students will first become critical analysts of public discourse and its preservation in traditional archives. Then, students will be challenged to contribute to the larger project by creating their own digital archives and collecting, organizing, and analyzing textual data from historical and contemporary sources. Students will gain experience in methods such as transcribing, text encoding, bibliographic metadata, mapping, network analysis, database management, and web design, as they build and publish the interactive archive. Ultimately, students will foster a critical understanding of archives as sites of power and the ways in which black protest can spark, take shape, and persevere online.