African Diaspora 2.0 Abstracts

african-diaspora-2-bannerOral Histories of Enslavement for Marriage in Times of War
Anne Bunting, York University

Recent collections of oral testimonies from survivors of gender violence in Rwanda (collected on video by the Kigali Genocide Memorial) and Sierra Leone (collected by the Special Court for Sierra Leone and others) offer historians of gender, marriage and enslavement rich narratives of women’s experience of trauma. But taking the challenge of the workshop, this paper will reflect on the important of the orality of the material and ask what is lost and what is potentially hyper-visible in seeing and hearing testimony; what are the consequences of orality in the case of gender violence and national remembering?

From Stories Matter to Curating Testimony: The Rwandan Survivors Perspective
Sandra Gasana, Université du Québec à Montréal, Science politique

This workshop will introduce participants to Curating Testimony, a cross-disciplinary community-university collaboration. Taking the word “curate” at its root meaning of “caring for,” as Lehrer and Milton suggest (2011), Curating Testimony is a visualization tool expected to allow human rights researchers, educators, and survivor organizations such as Page-Rwanda to engage much more meaningfully with large testimony collections, visualizing points of connection or difference within or between survivor communities. Compatible with Stories Matter, the Curating Testimony tool proposes to curate 56 Rwandan interviews from the Montreal Life Stories project into Stories Matter. The workshop will highlight some of the possible outcomes that Page-Rwanda chose to put forward using the curated database.

Do-it Yourself Oral History: Digital Platforms for the Work of Remediating Memory
Alex Gil, Columbia University, New York

In this talk, Alex Gil draws from his experiences working with the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities group, and current debates in the field, to offer a model for flexible Digital Archives that can be deployed in several environments, with low learning curves and light technological frameworks. In addition he will argue that platform and technical expertise directly affect the critical and ethical import of digital archives, especially of oral history projects.

Mapping People Making Movements: Real People, Digital Spaces, and Oral Narratives
Seth Kotch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mapping the Long Women’s Movement is an experiment with indexing, using, and understanding oral history in new ways. The project began with the Southern Oral History Program’s research in eastern Tennessee, where oral historians conducted interviews with dozens of people who became grassroots and labor activists, blazed new trails for women, or simply took charge of their own lives in dramatic ways. This paper addresses the theoretical underpinnings, execution, and implications of the project, which makes use of a combination of traditional analog and innovative technical techniques to index, process, and map oral narratives, suggesting new ways of experiencing oral history as students, scholars, activists, and general listeners. The project frees oral narrative from the confines of the archive without imposing an interpretive framework. Rather, it highlights the interviews’ inherent sense of place and invites users to come to their own conclusions about the material.

Digital Initiatives at the Harriet Tubman Institute
Diane Lee, York University

One of the key mandates of the Harriet Tubman Institute is to promote a greater understanding of the history of slavery and its legacy. The Institute subscribes to the belief that by making accessible all possible original documentation and by providing unbiased primary information, we can better inform discussion and have an impact on public policy implementation. As such, the Institute has embarked on a number of digital initiatives in order to make these documents accessible to the public at large. One of these initiatives has been the ongoing development of the Digital Archive to house and share its growing collection of digital documents on the African diaspora. Another has been its digitization efforts of endangered documents in archives in Africa–in particular, the Sierra Leone Public Archives. This talk will discuss some of the best practices and/or issues researchers need to consider in its forays into the digital and some of the lessons learned.

Social Media Engages Oral Culture at Ugandan Heritage Sites
Mary Leigh Morbey, Maureen Senoga, Mary Pat O’Meara, and Michelle Sengara, York University

Uganda in East Africa possesses 100 heritage sites illustrating the rich culture of Uganda: little known by Ugandans and the world. Collaboration between the Uganda National Museum and a York University Institute for Research on Learning Technologies research team is capturing 100 heritage sites through video and photograph, and stories of older people living in the shadow of the sites through videoed interviews in English and Luganda. The collected data situated in a Social Media structure centered in the museum website, preserves potential lost heritage.

Presenting Oral Histories Through Audio Walks
Phil Lichti, Concordia University

Over the past several years, through a series of collaborations, the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling has produced two audiowalks. The audiowalks have served as a vehicle to bring some of the centre’s research into the public sphere, providing a curated glimpse at some the Centre’s larger archives and inviting an engaged listening to audiences outside the discipline. Over the course of producing these audioguides, various collaborators developed new methodologies to facilitate the creation process. The goal of this workshop will be to share what was learned from these experiences and suggest a lay of the land to other researchers interested in adopting the audiowalk form to help their research reach a wider audience. The topics covered will include an introduction to audio-editing, geolocating transcriptions, mining for audio source material for sound design and cartography for audiowalk scripting.

The Haiti Memory Project and Oral History in the Digital Age?
Claire Payton, New York University and Duke University

The Haiti Memory Project is a digital oral history initiative dedicated to preserving and sharing the testimonies of survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It is a collection of over one hundred audio-recorded interviews with Haitians in Port-au-Prince in the summer and fall of 2010, conducted in Creole, French, and English. The interviews offer Haitians the opportunity to represent themselves and present their own narrative about what has happened to their country. The collection is also one of the first multi-lingual oral history collections processed with OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronize), a cutting-edge open source platform being developed by Dr. Doug Boyd (University of Kentucky). OHMS is a web-based system that allows users to search for specific terms within recorded oral history interviews. Payton plans to present on her experiences working with oral history digital methods and presenting tools for scholars embarking on similar projects.

The Race for Digitality: Connectivity as Diasporic Identity
Roopika Risam, Salem State College

With the growing dominance of the digital humanities, we have found ourselves amid another set of culture wars: white digital humanists in the United States and United Kingdom wield a tremendous amount of power over defining the field itself. Thus, as movements such as #transformDH and Postcolonial Digital Humanities and scholars including Tara McPherson and Alan Liu have argued, the digital humanities remains a field that struggles with difference. In this paper, I explore the possibilities and pitfalls of digital spaces for embracing and negotiating difference. In doing so, I highlight projects and tools that have taken up the challenge of addressing race and the digital and outline areas where work remains to be done. Moreover, I argue that digital media provide unique opportunities for defining diasporic identities through connectivity, emphasizing how collections of digital humanities work are engaged in defining, supporting, and even creating African diasporic affiliations.