Reflection 4

My project came a long way from the beginning, and I am still figuring out where I am going with all the data I have and how best to use it. I narrowed down my topic a lot to the second migration of the Somali Refugees. I started looking at the refugee resettlement process of the Somali refugees from home to the US. That was going to be a lot of work and a big topic to finish in six weeks. I have been fortunate to find good information on the secondary migration of refugees in general also for Somali Refugees. I am finding out there is limit statistical data on the numbers of families moving to new places after the initial placement. Something very interesting about secondary migration is the freedom and agency it gives refugees after they come to the US. For that reason, some times it is hard to keep track their movement.

Because of that, I am not sure exactly what data I am going to use for my visual project. I am thinking using StoryMap JS to make narrative map of the movement and personal stories of specific refugees. We are already half way through our project, and it is nerve racking that I am still changing my tools and data set. This week I am working on establishing a draft of my project, so I can see what more data I need to collect.

I emailed Catherine Besteman, the anthropologist who wrote on the books I am reading; she is unfortunately out of office, so I was not able to hear back from her.However, I was able to meet with professor Smith who is helping me with this project. She helped me revise and make my thesis clearer. One of my teachers in high school is working at a resettlement agency in Chicago, and I asked her about what are the policies of secondary migration and if her agency keeps track the movement of refugees after their initial placement. She said, “Resettlement agencies tend to discourage outmigration [secondary migration] as time and money are spent on the refugees’ behalf prior to their arrival” and “refugees have freedom of movement in the US so it’s completely up to them where they move once they’re here.” She gave me couple websites to check for data too , so that has been something positive this week.


Reflection IV (john)

What kinds of questions have you not been able to answer? Where are you hitting snafus and snags? What are you going to try to do to surmount these challenges (it’s okay, too, if you don’t know! Feel free to express your anxieties and worries). Remember that learning happens when you don’t know all the answers from the beginning, and take heart, dear scholars!

I have not came across any complications that would hinder my construction of the project and paper. My only “worry” is finding a logical place to discuss Lamar’s and other thinker’s opinions on Obama. The only place in my paper that this discussion can logically occur is the section that discusses how systemic racism negatively affects the rich black population. Here, Lamar mentions how we should be sympathetic to Obama because he is an example of a Black man trying to do his best in a system that does not want Black people to succeed. However, Keeanga Taylor and Cornel West disagree by mentioning how we should be more critical of Obama because his policies harmed Black constituents while his rhetoric blamed his Black constituents. I believe this is an issue that will be solved when I start drafting the Literature Review. After typing out the preceding sections, I will find a way to seamlessly include this difference in my evidence into my paper.
In regards to the project, I was initially worried I would not have much media to input into Scalar. However, I found more music videos for the album, that I did not know existed, and found some interviews with Kendrick himself discussing his choices in making the piece. Currently I am figuring out how I want the video to be presented; as in do I want the whole part of the interview to play, or do I want to splice it up and distribute where needed? I would prefer to do the latter, but I fear that splicing the video would leave an awkward ending for the viewer; however, I would rather the audience see a piece of the interview that relates to the song, and not one that follows later in the track list.
I am confident in the evidence that I have so far. From here, all I have to do is prepare my paper and project while making sure that my paper can flow into my project seamlessly.

Reflection Four (Ben)

My project so far has been a series of experimentations to see what data would work both best for my research question and for the approach that i am trying to use. From the outset by project was too broad and I had to struggle to define many different aspects of my research in order in order to proceed.

Firs off I had to reflect on a more specific question that I would be attempting to answer through my project. I knew that I wanted to map the migration of Jewish population from Iberia to the Ottoman Empire after the Spanish Inquisition but I had to determine what my particular argument was within that topic. Furthermore, I had to resolve a logical reason to present my argument on a mapping visualization. In other words, I had to find the proper data set that would fit a mapping project and this meant finding specific dates and location that I could track linearly in order to display the Jewish migration significantly. Once I determined that a set of specific locations and dates would make up my data I set out to find these, however, this endeavor proved tougher than I originally imagined. Most secondary sources do not supply such information but discuss more broad trends and or ranges of years. As a result I searched through relevant secondary sources to find primary sources that contained the information I was looking for. The problem here is that most primary sources present either a specific date or a location, but rarely both. Also, if I attempt to limit my data to these primary the stories that I can tell in my mapping are limited as a result. Because of my data still being undefined I still cannot determine what digital tool I am going to use or even If I am going to stick with my original idea of mapping.

Despite this obstacle, my investigation into primary sources has resulted in me finding a possible alternative data set. Daña Gracia Mendes was Jewish woman who converted to Christianity in the face of the inquisition. She married a merchant and then proceed to travel throughout Europe. She is remembered as a Jew who overcame the adversity of religious intolerance and, despite technically converting, remained close to her Jewish heritage. Her journey takes her from Iberia to other locations in Europe including venice and finally ended up in Constantinople. Although her route and story are uncommon among most Jews of the time, I could use her travels as a basis to discuss larger trends of Jewish migration that started in Iberia and ended in the Ottoman Empire. Whether I stick to my original idea and moderately reconfigure my data or if I change to a somewhat different approach is still u

Fourth Reflection (Tedi)

With any great triumph comes numerous essential failures, and this week’s success has been no exception. Every setback seems monumental, while every achievement seems minimal. To balance the discouragement that inevitably comes with success-failure thinking, I’ve begun to consider how process is important, essential, to the finished project. I would learn so much less without my failures, without the useless nuggets of information I’ve now accumulated, without the tools I’ve mastered but ultimately won’t use.

This week, I voyaged into the world of coding, having previously never attempted this means of Internet communication. After an hour of frustration accumulating in a mental mini-tantrum of anguish, I resigned myself to watching arduous Python tutorials. I quickly found out that reading the instructions was a very good method of understanding how to use a product, and vowed to humble myself to technology more often than I do, in order to avoid tantrums future. Note to self: coding is not something intuitive. I can cut corners by shampooing and conditioning simultaneously to save time, by sleeping in my clothes for the next day, and by getting two meals out of Olive Garden by filling up on breadsticks and taking my entrée home. I cannot cut corners with coding.

Maybe that’s been my biggest lesson of this week: learning how to respect the process. Learning how to recognize when things will take time. Expecting things to be difficult but doing them anyway. Being comfortable learning something new, being bad at it, being okay with that frustration. Not giving up on a tool or a line of research just because it seems daunting. If you’re not learning something new, doing something wrong, or making yourself uncomfortable, then maybe you’re not researching properly. Or passionately. Because research should be both proper and passionate, in my opinion.

This week, I also learned that success is relative. After working for two hours, I managed to use Python to code a simple responsive bot, which would regurgitate simple questions like “What is your name?” and “What is your major?” and offer a response. The first person I excitedly showed my bot to was significantly less than impressed. I think that my simple exploit into coding elicited a pause, followed by, “That’s it?” Needless to say, this less than enthusiastic response brought me down a few notches. But that’s why success is relative. Maybe this person didn’t know that I had no experience in coding, or didn’t know I had worked so long on it, or maybe they were just downright underwhelmed. But I’m going to allow myself to take pride in the tiny successes prompted by hard work. I’m going to let myself take joy in the small advances when they come preceded by difficulties. Validation is a pretty decoration that I find myself often seeking, but I shouldn’t rely on others for motivation and praise. I will take my successes, big and little, and celebrate them without need or desire for substantiation or compliment.

Fourth Reflection (Camilla)

At this point in my research process, I have stumbled and tripped over hurdles while hitting many walls. I knew when I embarked on this mission that my research topic was more obscure and remote in terms of reach. I didn’t expect the data to fall into my hands or be laid out in front of me with a Google search; however, since then I have learned that much of the information I aimed to display and normalize in discourse was blocked from the grasp of Swedish researchers, and therefore, myself. I failed to locate the data I needed in order to understand the Sami population and different interpretations of Sami indigeneity. While I wanted to understand how indigenous identities progress and envelope different areas of life, different lifestyles, varying places, and different levels of connection, the task became impossible.

I sifted through several scholarly articles until I had finally drafted my plan: it felt strong, it felt clear, and it felt powerful. Finding out a few days later that my mission had come to a halt was indeed frustrating, but nevertheless I insisted that I was not a failure. In fact, I had come across a problem that I didn’t even know existed until then. I had found an erasure of indigenous identity by the Swedish government. While the motives pushing these policies that eliminate understanding of the Swedish Sami population have their reasons and logic, I now feel more than ever the need to unravel the rope that ties these forms of discussion out of reach. I like many digital humanists, had to take a direction based on the data I had available. While I didn’t get to choose my direction on my own, I would not have the perspective that I have acquired had it not been for taking the risk of eagerly engaging with search engines only to come out empty handed–well, empty handed in terms of what I originally hoped for, but full of information from everywhere else that became a challenging task in of itself.

At this moment, I have completed two timelines with details about different policies that have been in place over the past few hundred years alongside discussions based on other researchers and viewpoints, extending the research to compare with the effects of outsider categorization. I plan to create one more timeline and then upload them to a website. The next challenge is finding a theme that works with my idea of contrasting between Sami identity and knowledge and knowledge and definitions laid out by the state. Lacking data on population and identity in this indigenous culture, I want to create infographics and a project that describes the issues that I faced in my research in terms of the issues presented because of these barriers to understanding and knowledge. Without knowledge, one cannot take initiative to bring about change. Without understanding, these initiatives wouldn’t have any reason to be taken. The subject of indigenous cultural erasure and limitation [of rights] through categorization is not unique to the Sami, it is global. While I am researching a small indigenous population in Sweden, my project lies on a bigger scale.

I am confused and at a crossroads: I don’t know where I am going exactly, but I am still moving. I suppose that only these next few weeks (which are flying by way too fast) will tell me where I end up. I am lost and progressing at the same time, and it is a strange feeling. But if there is one thing that I am certain about, it is that my productive failure is a true example of how our losses, our failures, and our mistakes all play a role in getting us to our final destinations, they make us stronger, more capable, more eager to learn, and therefore, stronger scholars.

Failings and What Not- Reflection Four

It is now a race against the clock. What can we still do in three weeks, knowing what we’ve done in the last three? That is the real question. I think I will continue to do independent research in the future because on this topic I know I will not be able to do everything I want to with the information I have about stratification. That being said, I do think that there are somethings that weren’t as clear to me in the beginning as they are now, in terms of research structure, that I wish I had thought about before. The one that stands out the most is the relationship between the digital tool and the written work. I realize now that I had always considered the digital tool as part of my analysis on the research as was collecting, but not an explanation of my analysis. I realize now that a lot of the other scholars were doing it the other way around. For example, I wanted to use ArcMap to analyze distances and put that into my written work. But what I’m now doing is understanding stratification and using ArcMap to explain it. I don’t know it’s a weird balance.

I also think that this week could’ve been more productive than what it was. I received new papers and research from people in Colombia this week but it sort of feels like it’s a too little too late. But we knew this was coming when we started to get into it: eventually you need to limit yourself.

The most frustrating thing this week has been using R. Not because it’s hard, or because coding is impossible, but because there seem to be a set of circumstances stacked against me. I kept running the code and it wasn’t working- eventually I reached out for help and it was a simple mistake about the links I was using. So I fix that, run the code and it turns out that the government server was down. It’s been down the whole weekend and I don’t know when it’ll come back up (hopefully tomorrow). So I don’t know if the code even works at this point and like I mentioned earlier, this was the code I was going to use to measure distances.

The reading has also turned out to be more work than I expected. Stratification is a huge topic and there’s a lot of legal aspects to worry about. How can I truly explain stratification without reading the laws regarding it? How will I even argue anything like stratification causing segregation if I don’t know the area’s effects. It seems to me that I will only be able to answer the first and simply touch on the second.

But there were positives this week! Namely, I got responses from a few government officials which was very unexpected. I also got my ArcMap to work and start rendering correctly. So now that that is set up I can move along with Story Map which turns out is a pretty easy to use API. The only thing you need to have clear is how to tell your story.


“…and if we don’t have it, you ain’t gon’ have it either, cuz we gon’ tear it up.”

“…and if we don’t have it, you ain’t gon’ have it either, cuz we gon’ tear it up.”

~ Fannie Lou Hamer speaking on radical youth movements of the 60s

See, Fannie had the right idea – nobody is free until we’re all free.  Nobody gets to be free until we’re all free.  Black folk have been telling us this from the advent of this haphazard, violent project known today as the Western world.  Black folk throughout history can teach us many things about liberation, but perhaps one of the most pertinent reminders is that the movement for liberation must be led by those who are most marginalized.  How can white middle-class people begin to imagine the landscape of freedom when they have never known the dangers of the most treacherous social terrains?  Liberation must always center those who are most dispossessed.  Only they, knowing the societal boundaries of dehumanization, can restore us to a sense of humanity that is not bound up in the oppression of others.  This is why intersectionality is important (and a love letter of sorts to marginalized black folks – queer, woman, trans, poor, child, elderly, undocumented, incarcerated).  It reminds us to center those who are most vulnerable, a centering that not only means including more diverse narratives or theory, but DECENTERING those who occupy hegemonic power.  Tokenization is not an option.  Structural changes are needed to reimagine a world that is not poisoning itself with oppression.  That is what decolonization looks like.   

Enter: Digital Humanities.

I’m already skeptical of everything in this world, especially being of the Afropessimist school of thought that posits that this world is anti-black at its very foundation and until we grapple with that reality, we will forever be doomed to reproduce its oppression.  In the first couple papers we read, I was not moved by the claims that Digital Humanities was revolutionary, at least not in the fullest sense of the word.  Revolutionary in the sense that it offered an innovative alternative to the humanities as it was understood, sure, but even the humanities (prior to DH) was struggling to decolonize.  Lafayette’s faculty today, for example, is still overwhelmingly white (including the Africana Studies department).  So how can a truly revolutionary DH emerge from these conditions?

Risam was right to highlight that any Digital Humanities that wants to claim relevance must organize out of a black feminist and intersectional lens.  The example she gave about coding is perhaps one of the most useful.  That there are groups that exist such as Black Girls Code is testament to the paucity of minoritized groups in areas of technology, particularly because the learning of code is most often only accessible to upper middle class white men. What epistemologies have been obscured, peripheralized?  The plain fact is that knowledge production is inherently political and any perspective or area of study that wants to claim an apolitical posture should be examined with deep skepticism for the danger that it poses in uncritically reproducing existing oppressive social dynamics.  

I also appreciate Risam’s argument for the use of black feminism in praxis in that she suggests that every manifestation of Digital Humanities must be guided by the specificity (or locality) of its given context, not by monolithic, hegemonic methodologies.  I thought about the places that most need the Digital Humanities, like Jamaica, where so much of our heritage is sitting at a precarious place, always at risk of erasure, but I struggled to imagine a DH that was uniquely Jamaican or Caribbean. Still, It’s a struggle on which we must embark if we are to have a truly liberatory, revolutionary DH instead of one that reifies the Global North’s dominance.  Intersectionality does not present the risk of limiting the field, as Risam posited, but rather it extends the field into a new range of possibilities for exploration, like Dr Meredith Clark’s interesting work on Black Twitter (

I look forward to a DH committed to centering the Global South, people of color, women, the working class, queer and trans folk and others who have been othered.  Or else we gon’ have to tear it up.

Reflection 3

This week, I decided to make some twists in my project. Instead of looking at how advertisements shape society’s perspectives, I am not looking at how advertisements reflect culture. Therefore, I will look at data on occupations of working women, compare that data to working women displayed in the ads and analyze if the data aligns with how working women are displayed. I also limited the industries I will focus on into fashion, beverages and food; however, I am still creating a database of ads and I am trying to keep an open mind and be flexible with which industries to use. I also found more resources to use including a master’s thesis on “Female stereotypes in 21st century news and business magazines” and the book Manipulating images: World War II mobilization of women through magazine advertising. Finally I started experimenting with Scalar and Tableau. I already feel more comfortable with Scalar, but Tableau is taking time to figure out.

As for the articles, “Putting the Human Back into the Digital Humanities: Feminism, Generosity, and Mess” by Elizabeth Losh, Jacqueline Wernimont, Laura Wezler and Hong-an Wu and “Toward a Cultural Critique of Digital Humanities” by Domenico Fiormente were about what we have been discussing so far. They approach the exclusive nature of the field through different lenses. The article “Putting the Human Back into the Digital Humanities: Feminism, Generosity, and Mess” approaches Digital Humanities, and the technology field in general, from a feminist perspective and explores the contrast between the greater awareness on structural racism and sexism in the US and failure of reflection of the movement in interdisciplinary academic fields. Another issue is the Wikipedia example given in the article; while trying to address gender imbalance, Wikipedia created more imbalance and controversy. The article closes by explaining that there is some progress being made to decrease the gender gap and increase the inclusivity in the field of Digital Humanities. On the other hand, the article “Toward a Cultural Critique of Digital Humanities” looks at the Anglo-American identity of Digital Humanities. Fiormente questions the Anglo-American nature of the field and explains that even though there are fields like Digital Humanities around the world, they are made invisible by the Anglo-American hegemony in the academic research field. He then goes on to explore the geopolitics of DH and concludes his argument by offering “federation of diverse associations” model and encourages digital humanists to engage in reducing political, economic and social unbalances.

When introduced to Digital Humanities, like Fiormente mentions in his article, I thought the distinguishing factor for DH was the methodology, the fact that it is a collaborative research and includes a digital component where the research/data is presented. However, reading these articles and seeing the politics involved in the creation and progression of the field and realizing that it is just a reflection of the male-dominated technology industry is disappointing. On the contrary, the fact that at least these conversations are taking place and the gender gap is recognized give me at least some hope that some progress is being made in making Digital Humanities a more inclusive community.

Reflection 3 (Ben)

Digital Humanities has been a controversial subject in many ways from its initial emergence and one of the most prominent talking points is the discussing surrounding diversity. The current state of digital scholarship is dominated by racially white, culturally western players. Furthermore, according to “Towards a Cultural Critique Of Digital Humanities” by Domenico Fiormonte, the field is controlled primarily by a set of standards put in place by the same demographics at the hands of only a few companies, corporations or even individuals. Fiormonte argues that the central issue that causes this lack of diversity is that when new digital tools are developed, one reflects on their use or impact, but overlooks their cultural foundation. In “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson”, two authors, Amy Earhart and Toniesha L. Taylor, reflect on the racial and cultural monotony of the field. They state that this lack of diversity has a series of negative results, a central one being that it takes away from participation in the digital humanities. In response the authors call for a “grassroots recovery project to expand current digital offerings.” This project would, in turn, broaden the digital humanities’ reach and engage with, at least on a basic level, people of all cultures, races, and socio-economic classes.

As I read about the monotony of the digital humanities community it reminds be to be cognisant of the cultural foundations of my own project. The origins of my research are based in my own cultural background and the genuine interest to learn more about my family’s history and more broadly the history of the Jewish people. As suggested in the readings, it is not only the culture associated with the project but also the environment that the project is created in that contributes to the finished product. What has my childhood in New York City contributed to my research process and project? What about Lafayette College and even the Digital Humanities Summer Program that i am in right now? In addition to this project being an opportunity to reflect on these questions and my own cultural environment, it is also a chance for me to further think about how my creation is going to be used. Earhart and Taylor inspire me to try and create a project that is accessible to all levels of education, in addition to all cultures. The primary goal when first thinking about my project was to provide academic information in an visual manner that it is not required to have prior knowledge about; to bridge the gap between common discourse and historical scholarship. Because general academic scholarship, like the digital humanities is dominated by small subjection of identities, this goal to make a project accessible to the public goes along with Earhart and Taylor’s proposal for a grassroots movement.

My project once again has shifter in terms of the data that I will be using. Instead of focusing on providing and series of information about particular cities relevant to Jewish migration, I needed a more of a practical and logical reason for mapping the information. As a result, I am now creating a map which the user follows mark in linear time progression, starting prior to the official start of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 until the late 1500s. Each mark will be a either a specific event or a primary source entry. For example, one mark will be state: Istanbul, 1477: Government census records Jews as the third largest population in the the city by religious affiliation. As I continue my research I will have to determine if I can find enough events/primary source accounts or if I will have to expand my data set. Furthermore, most of the primary source accounts provide information about before migration, about life in Spain or about the pogroms as a result of the inquisition, or after the migration about the conditions in the Ottoman Empire, but i’m yet to find material regarding the actual migration process.

Reflection 3

Because I will be gone this week, please use part of your reflection to engage with two of these articles. Your reflections can/should still be personal, but they should reveal thoughtful consideration of identity and its implications on work, structurally and in its content. This reflection should be longer (1-2 pages).

The use of technology and media to address social issues is becoming more popular than ever before. We talked about the role of Digital Humanities to address social issues, as well as the diversity and intersectionality of the Digital Humanities. The “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson,” by Amy E. Earhart and Toniesha L. Taylor reading tackles the role of DH in addressing issues of Race historically and contemporary times. Yes, it is the case that people are using social media to raise awareness about issues like police brutality now, but it is important to realize that access and privilege to use technology play important role of what issues that are being addressed in Digital Humanities. This made me think of a book that I recently read, They Cant Kill Us All, and how important social media and technology were during the shootings of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and so many more black men. The author, Washington Post writer, first covers the story of Ferguson but was inspired to write this book by the immense reaction this got nationally. It is also true, that shootings like those were happening before Mike Brown’s but access and resources made difference for Wesley Lowery to write his book.

Taylor and Earhart of Taxes A&M (PWI) and Prairie View A&M (HBCU) respectively discuss the significant of access to resources was at their project White Violence, Black Resistance. For instance, when they were presenting their project, Taylor could not secure funding for the presentation, so Taylor could not attend it.

In their own words, the goal of their project, White Violence, Black Resistance, was “to locate the voices, spaces and places where African American contributions have been most actively present, yet also actively erased or silenced, we have been careful to create digital structures that reveal rather than conceal.” HBCU libraries are less equipped with collection, spaces and data; Prairie View A&M is no exception. This reflects the role of access; race and privilege play in academia in general but also especially in DH. If you don’t have access to the right tools, your research might not go as far as you would like.

The goal of this project inspires me to give voice and share the true story of some Somali refugees. I want my project to reveal the humanity of refugees, what inspires their decisions to move and what is most important to them. Second migration is huge with in the Somali refugees in the United States. The pre conceived explanation of why Somali refugees move is the search for places with better economic profit. Is that always the case? Research is showing there more factors to why Somali refugees are moving a lot. I want to share the importance of community and safety to many Somalis through this project.

Intersectionality is important is DH because it gives dynamics to the projects, but also the understanding of the issues people are trying to address. It is hard to speak about issues of privilege and access with out addressing race for instance. The choice of the date you include in your project shows the intersectionality of your project.