As we complicated the readings with our discussion, we also highlighted a couple of digital archives outside our original collection, as well:
These both gave us a gateway into discussing ethical presentations of curated materials as both, like the Black at Bryn Mawr project, deal with presenting historical artifacts in a way that paints a multi-perspective narrative that deploys a representational memory. While all three of these archives resounded thoughtfully with us, they each utilize different tools for navigation and making meaning.
Even more interesting, all three occupy space within black studies and create a new, critical perspective. As Terman notes, “the challenge Black Studies scholars face . . . [is] how to produce quality content that is centralized enough to provide a cumulative critical apparatus, as opposed to a flurry of unorganized memes.” This is, as Terman goes on, even more difficult within the context of Digital Humanities as we think about ontologies. Each of these three archives can easily be delineated as “Black Studies” scholarship, but defining the specifics as to why this is so becomes murky. As Wernimont discusses when exploring feminist interventions, our understanding of the methodologies and criteria for classification impact our understanding of them. While the scholarship we read before our meeting and the discussions we had in class found us grappling with these ideas, we realized the inherent difficulty in approaching these topics was in securing an answer to these questions. That is to say, while dealing with power relations and alterity, a meaningful representation has to be one that calls these ethical considerations into question for there to be meaning present. As Gallon so concisely notes, “to get caught up in the exact definitions or questions of ‘who is in or who is out’ in black digital humanities is to ignore how the very nomenclature of blackness as a complex and rich history that moves in the same conceptual orbit as the term ‘digital humanities.’”
As all three of these archives are recovery projects (they pull forward and present historical artifacts for a more complex understanding of silenced voices), representation and identity are at the forefront of each. But because of the nature of archives, there is also a flattening happening. Collectively, we pushed back against what this flattening took away from these projects as we examined what it allowed. Interestingly, it was in this space that we managed our most productive conversation about the nature of DH and representation. This also gave us a more complex understanding of what each of these three archives were framing. Black at Bryn Mawr, for instance, in exploring identity and space, situates its meaning in the representation of the present. We are meant to see how these artifacts still hold power and where, specifically, that still resonates or is obscured in the now. With O Say Can You See, we are instead meant to grapple with just how widespread and inescapable the lack of humanity was in a specific moment in order to trace how these structures are still impactful.