Friday, February 27, 2015

Digital Humanities and African/ American American Studies

A Wikipedia Entry:
Digital Humanities is an area of research and teaching at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from the fields of humanities computing, humanistic computing, and digital humanities praxis digital humanities embraces a variety of topics, from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital humanities (often abbreviated DH) currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) and social sciences with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, text mining, digital mapping), and digital publishing.
A humanities scholar trained in the interpretive methodologies of English literature, I wondered how this exciting new tools were explored within the fields of African American and African Studies.  What new research questions and epistemological assumptions may digital humanities may data visualization, text mining, and online collections engender?

A cursory Internet search yielded quite a few surprises.

Kenton Rambsy, a University of Kansas graduate student, discusses the implications of text mining in short stories by Edward P. Jones and other African American writers.  Using text mining software, Rambsy discovered a specific pattern of landmarks and geographical descriptions in Jones' short stories.  Rambsy claims that Jones' frequent use of location serves as a type of geo-tagging or literary geo-tagging.

I discovered Africa Past & Present, an excellent site that features podcasts "history, culture, and politics in Africa and the diaspora." If features several podcasts archived as digital humanities. I was particularly interested in Laura E. Seay's podcast in which she discusses her use of Twitter and a blog to document her academic work on the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"African American History", a collection from the American Memory series of digital humanities project from the Library of Congress, features excellent podcasts and virtual exhibitions about African American culture and history.

Overall, the intersection of digital humanities and African American/ African studies seems very promising.


Alegi, P. & Limb. P. (2015, 3 Feb). Episode 89: Digital African studies Part 2 with Laura Seay. Africa Past and Present. Podcast retrieved 27 February 2015 from

Digital Humanities.(2015, 19 Feb). Retrieved 27 February 2015 from Wikipedia:

Library of Congress (n.d). African American History. Retrieved 27 February 2015 from American Memory:

Rambsy, K. (2014, 17 Jan). Edward P. Jones and literary geo-tagging. Retrieved  27 February, 2015 from Cultural Front:

Seay, L. E. (2014). Texas in Africa.  Retrieved 27 February 2015 from

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