February 24, 2017
10:00 am–12:00 pm
Alderman Library, Room 421
****Lunch and roundtable discussion to follow at noon***
Digital Humanities and Difficult Narratives: Recovering Human Rights Violations During the 1976 Soweto Student Uprisings
Over the past decade, scholars and community leaders have experimented with the use of new digital technologies to tell the history of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Technologies now at our disposal allow us to layer victim testimony in hypertexts using multiple tools for mapping, text mining, and 3D visualizations. Digital humanities (DH) may also help analyze documentation so as to reconstruct and recover an alternative historical narrative in the face of conventional wisdom or officializing histories for the foreign tourist market. The potential layering of the many narratives also helps lay bare the messiness of archive making, the methodologies of digital ethnography, and, in particular, the endangered nature of those archives across South Africa related to the Soweto Uprisings of June, 1976. My work on the Soweto Historical GIS Project’s Social Justice History Platform, builds on the early work of Soweto ’76, by providing a new software platform designed to represent geographic and spatial data within an enhanced interface that contextualizes locations and objects alongside the historical narrative of the primary source documents. As a 3D and virtual reality enabled platform (built atop the Unity engine), the Social Justice History Platform is able to represent both 2D geospatial information (such as maps, photographs, and records) and 3D representations of landscapes, locations, and 3D models of historical buildings and objects. This talk combines traditional ethnographic and oral history fieldwork with 3D technologies in the pursuit of documenting past human rights violations by the former apartheid regime. It poses the question: “Can digital reconstructions of difficult histories be used to harness the tools of restorative social justice while also bringing to light those yet untold stories of past human rights violations?”
Angel David Nieves, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y and is Director of the American Studies and Cinema & Media Studies Programs there. He is also Co-Director of Hamilton’s Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) which is recognized as a leader among small-liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. As Co-Director, he has raised over $2.7 million dollars in foundation and institutional support for digital humanities scholarship at Hamilton. He is also Research Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Nieves’s scholarly work and community-based activism critically engage with issues of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South. His digital research and scholarship have been featured on MSNBC.com and in Newsweek International. His work can be found at http://www.apartheidheritages.org
Crowd Sourcing Digital History Metadata: The Liberated Africans Project in Global Perspective
After 1808, over 200,000 enslaved Africans were emancipated in an international effort to suppress and then abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Intervention and prevention mostly involved the British Royal Navy (along with Portuguese, Brazilian, and Spanish naval ships) capturing slave ships and raiding coastal prisons. They would then escort the people responsible for engaging in the illegal slave trade, along with the rescued captives, into naval courts and bilateral commissions located in Africa and the Americas. The Liberated Africans Project reconstructs on a case-by-case basis widely dispersed archival evidence from an exceedingly rich, transnational collection of primary sources made by some of the world’s earliest international human rights courts. The long-term outcome of this Digital History project will be an interactive website that scholars, students and the general public can utilize to explore the history of antislavery and international human rights law, as well as the demography and ethnolinguistic composition of the post-1807 trans-Atlantic slave trade, principally from the perspective of the Africans involved. This talk focuses on how the design of liberatedafricans.org involves a content-driven database network (KORA) to re-organize, store, manage and assess available archival data based on events, places, objects and the people involved.
Henry Lovejoy is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder. His research focuses on in the history of West Africa, African Diaspora and Atlantic World. He is also heavily involved in advancing methodologies in the Digital Humanities and was recently awarded a NEH-Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication for 2017-2018. He is principal investigator for The Liberated Africans Project, which received funding from the Hutchins Center at Harvard University to work with programmers at MATRIX, the center for digital humanities and social sciences at Michigan State University.
This event, co-sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Institute and the Scholars’ Lab, is part Woodson Institute’s African Studies Colloquium Series. It is free and open to the public.