The IDRH Announces 2021-2022 Digital Humanities Fellows

The Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Kansas has announced the newly selected fellows for the 2021-2022 Digital Humanities fellows program. The Digital Humanities Fellows are a cohort of faculty members, staff, and graduate students from across the university committed to thinking and working together for an academic year. The cohort is designed to form the foundation of an ongoing, institution-wide conversation about issues in the public and digital humanities. 

For the second consecutive year, the Digital Humanities Fellows program will focus on digital storytelling with particular attention to the ethics, politics, and techniques of digital storytelling.  

Each fellow will participate in fellows workshops twice a semester (virtual or in-person), attend presentations by the IDRH colloquium speakers and commit to workshopping digital humanities projects, which they will present at a final Digital Humanities Fellows Symposium. The fellows will be paid a $1000 stipend.

Rebekah Aycock

American Studies

Rebekah Aycock is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Studies and a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her dissertation explores burglary in U.S. culture. Looking at real and fictional burglary cases primarily in the late nineteenth century, she considers the different elements of the crime in order to understand how it became a racialized and sexualized felony. More broadly, she asks how this work can inform our understanding of how white “fear” functions as an affective force that perpetuates white supremacy and how white people’s emotional satisfaction became the expectation for modern conceptions of peace and justice. Combining literary studies, legal history, and affect studies, her archive comprises family correspondence, popular fiction, trial reports, case briefs, and newspaper articles. Her project will focus on working with digital archives and incorporating text mining into her research on digitized historical newspapers.

Haley Bajorek

"Haley Bajorek"Museum Studies & African and African American Studies

Haley Bajorek is a masters student in both Museum Studies and African and African American studies. In this project, she will track the history of Black museums in the United States spatially, temporally, and through spotlighting common trends, exhibits, museum professionals, and the social moments that influenced them. By utilizing various media and interactives to engage with this history, this project will supplement and expand on counter-archives and counter-histories necessary to understanding the development and missions of museums doing ‘wake work’. This project is intended to be used as a tool, a starting point, rather than a closed-circuit archive, to actively include Black museums in museological historiographies as well as situate Black culture and history within the broader dominant narrative.

Jade Harrison

"Jade Harrison"African American Literature

Jade Harrison is a doctoral student in African American literature. This project analyzes critical shifts in the ways scholars discuss Toni Morrison’s published novels. Although Morrison is a canonical author, she is often overlooked in terms of identifying how critics and scholars have framed her in relation to her fiction. Morrison’s crossover appeal has shaped some critics’ tendencies to focus exclusively on her fiction’s artistic merit while ignoring the social and political contexts in which her novels were produced. Rarely have scholars attempted to perform extensive surveys accounting for the critical shifts in Morrison studies or dedicate attention to other aspects of her vast body of work, from 1980-2020. Harrison is currently curating a dataset, or a collection of critical works, that traces how the criticism published on Morrison’s fiction—from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015)—has evolved during this period. Interpreting the various contexts in which Morrison and her fiction have been placed throughout contemporary literary history, she will transform “The Toni Morrison Dataset” into a series of interactive data visualizations as a form of digital storytelling that will help illustrate the critical history and evolution of Morrison scholarship over the past forty years.

Terry Koenig, PHD, LSCSW

"Terry Koenig"School of Social Welfare

Project title: The Long Road Out of Africa: Inclusion and Identity in Como, Italy

This project involves a seven-year partnership with Cometa, an agency in Como, Italy that is increasingly providing vocational training to African refugees and has received European Union acknowledgement for its network of welcoming agencies and business partners who provide employment-based internships. In 2019 and before the emergence of the pandemic, we conducted semi-structured interviews and captured photographic images of African refugees, their work settings, and the staff that work with them. Our interviews examined the geographic and emotional journeys of African refugees and the experiences of Cometa’s staff and partners as both groups learn and grow through their involvement in a one-year long vocational training course.

Over the past two years we have qualitatively analyzed refugee and staff interviews and photographic images for patterns and themes. With these digital tools, we hope to further investigate these oral histories and visual ethnographic images. Our digital outcomes include the development of a website and interactive maps that integrate refugee and staff voices and images, with the potential for rapid comparisons of information across multiple platforms as a means of expanding dissemination of information about the human phenomenon of refugees and their integration in new geographic spaces and societies.

Sandra Leon

"Sandra Leon"Department of Spanish & Portuguese

Sandra Leon is a master’s student in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese with a background in library science. She is curating digitized bilingual newspapers from collections in Costa Rica, to create a storytelling platform that contains information about local and national histories, contributions, and struggles of the Afro, Indigenous, and women communities in the first half of the XX century of Limón, Costa Rica. Through a process of distant reading, close reading, and text mining, the digital collections will be created with contextualized metadata. This interactive exhibit will represent particular moments of these communities during the 1934 strike (Huelga Bananera) including: 1) women participation that led to women’s right to vote; 2) changes that Afro Costa Rican faced to obtain citizenship; and 3) modifications in the national work code for the working-class communities. Leon’s project opens up a window into the local stories of Limón, the representation of this period of time from a national perspective, and the influence of international interests through a digital platform using archival sources from the region. 

Brent Metz, PhD

"Bent Metz"Anthropology

Brent Metz is a professor in the department of anthropology. This year, Metz will begin work on creating an interactive website for exploring the history and identities of the Ch’orti’ Maya of eastern Guatemala, western Honduras, and northwestern El Salvador. He intends to work with select Ch’orti’ students and leaders to build content and make it presentable in a way accessible to Ch’orti’s, the vast majority of whom have access to smartphones but less than a 6th grade education. Much information has already been compiled for Metz’ book in press, Where Have the Eastern Mayas Gone? The Labyrinth of Ch’orti’ Indigeneity and Mestizaje in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, in which data from a variety of little-known archeological, historical, ethnographic, and geographical sources as well as an ethnographic survey in 31 counties conducted by Metz with Ch’orti’ leaders were consolidated. Metz will partner especially with a new (2021) Ch’orti’ “pluriversity”, which already has youth using smartphones in field courses to learn content and collect information from Ch’orti’s. The proposed website would be trilingual in English, Spanish, and Ch’orti’. Metz intends to eventually include students and faculty from Guatemala’s national university (San Carlos) in the project.

Lena Mose

Lena MoseAmerican Studies & Women Gender & Sexuality studies

Lena Mose is an undergraduate student majoring in American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, with a minor in Latinx Studies. They are in the TRIO McNair Scholars program, through which they produced the project There’s No Place Like Home: Mapping Kansas Chicana Legacies from 1960-1980. Their research aims to historicize the Latina feminist experience in Kansas through an intersectional approach to show how normative history has negatively impacted Latina and Chicana representation, experience, and identity formation. Mose plans to produce a digital project that seeks to understand the mechanics of erasure which have silenced and misrepresented Latina’s and their activism throughout history. Through contextualizing Latina activism with place, space, and time, their long term goal is to produce a digital storytelling tool which will narrate the stories of how Latinas moved in, out, and between different activist spaces to negotiate liberatory means. Moreover, Mose is interested in archives, oral histories, posters, photos, poetry, and newspapers to historicize Latina activism in Kansas from the 60s to 80s.

Cameron Piercy, PhD

"Cameron Piercy"Communication studies

Cameron Piercy is an assistant professor of Communication Studies and the founding director of the Human-Machine Communication (HMC) lab. HMC explores how people communicate with complex machines (e.g., algorithms, artificial intelligences, and robots). This new domain of communication is fraught with questions tied to technology, philosophy, organizing, relationships, and other key domains of human existence—all key components of digital humanities. Cameron’s project seeks to incorporate additional humanistic scholarship in a graduate class HMC course which he will teach in Spring 2022. As a digital humanities fellow, Cameron hopes to confront questions of what it means to be human when interacting with machine communication partners. He will leverage the knowledge gained throughout this program to reshape curriculum in his HMC course. The funding for this fellowship will be distributed to students in the course to support a variety of research projects. Each project will have a component of digital humanities, and the results of each project will be showcased in the digital storytelling space Gather.Town.

Silvia Sanchez

"Silvia Sanchez"Cultural Anthropology

Silvia Sánchez is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology and is pursuing a graduate certificate in museum studies at KU. Her dissertation research investigates the diverse forms of work Maya Kaqchikel women carry out to make a living for themselves and others in Pa Su’m, Iximulew (Patzún, Guatemala). As part of her ethnographic study, Silvia will interview women with varied occupations to learn about the oral history of Pa Su’m and women’s experiences as workers. Using these narratives, Silvia wants to build an interactive digital exhibit about Maya Kaqchikel women’s talents and skills, as well as the challenges and opportunities they face in the global economy. Silvia hopes that teachers in the Maya Kaqchikel area will use this exhibit as a resource to learn about local history and Maya women’s identity. This year, as a Digital Storytelling Fellow, Silvia will take the first steps towards building the interactive digital exhibit. She will create a preliminary narrative for the exhibit, curate digital resources to be included, and learn about the process of building and sustaining online exhibits over time.

Fernando Santos

"Fernando Santos"Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Fernando Santos is a second-year master's student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese: “After immigrating from the Dominican Republic to the United States with my family in January 2009, I realized that it was essential to keep our culture alive, even though we were far away from our country of origin. One way in which I learned to keep my Dominican essence within my home in the United States was by not losing my “Dominican-ness” when expressing myself. Jerga, as referred to in Spanish, is an essential tool for keeping the Dominican diaspora and my Caribbean essence. My digital storytelling project, The Jargon of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, represents the dialectal zone of the Caribbean that includes the island territories of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. This digital project emphasizes jargon as a pedagogical linguistic approach to present a broader context and dynamics of the Caribbean and illustrate its origin interactively according to the local knowledge of these Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries. The Jargon of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean integrates jargon found in literary and non-literary writings, music, film, poetry, among others, creating a linguistic corpus in the form of an interactive dictionary. At the same time, the digital maps provide a geographical understanding of the lexicon, while the timelines offer historical context.”