Final Reflection (Ben)

In addition to learning extensive information about the Sephardic Diaspora, the emergence of Sephardim, the conditions for medieval and early modern Jews in different regions and the various factors determining authorities attitudes them, this project also allowed me an opportunity to reflect on my role as a historian. Throughout my many weeks of researching, I found only a limited amount of primary sources from this area, illuminating the limits of historical reproduction. Most of the material I used was produced from a select group of well-off individuals and many remained anonymous. Thus, not just for my project but for all historical work it is important to represent the characters that I can but to also be cognizant of the majority whose stories gets lost through translation. These limits on history reassure my goal to make my project accessible to the public. By presenting these stories, I hope to teach the public about the events that occurred in this period but also to supply the grounds for them to recognize the limits and to reflect on the lost voices.

The field of Digital Humanities is not as straightforward as I initially predicted. The first few weeks we read a series of articles that attempted to define Digital Humanities as well as looked at one that  compiled Digital Humanists’ own definitions of the field. No two explanations were the same and some even pointed the frivolousness of attempting to agree on a definition. However, what revealed the variety and unpredictability of Digital Humanities was the diversity of our projects and our processes. Not only were all of our projects wholly unique, the course of action that we all took was one-of-a-kind as well. Even though multiple of us did mapping, we all approached it from different angles. Even when some us used the same digital tools, we ran into different problems and used them uniquely. The fact that we all, like the other digital humanists that presented at Bryn Mawr, have our own one-of-a-kind research topics makes it easy for us to have an affinity for that topic. Unlike traditional humanities research, there is more customization as a result of the digital component of the field; for this project there was an increased opportunity to create and to answer the question the way that I wanted. This sense of the project being even more original is why I have grown to appreciate not only my research question, but also my entire project, to a greater degree. In reflection, it was not just the questions that made our projects unique, but it was the way we approached them, the problems that we overcame, the choices that we made and the journey that we took over the past six weeks. I think that this path is what I really grew to appreciate. Looking back, it is knowing where I began, where I ended, and exactly what happened in between that allowed for the finished project that is most telling to me.

Knowing our my process is one thing, but being able to talk about it and explain it to others is another. This project, through the reflections, methodology and lit review sections of the paper, and presentation forced me to come to terms with all of the choices that I made. It forced me to be more conscious of every step in a way that other assignments do not. Furthermore, it forced me to be aware of how my research fits into academia more broadly. For the first time I reflected on how my work interacts with the larger community surrounding it.

This project was not just an exploration into one point in history. It was a meditation on history as a whole, on academics, and on my individual and unique thought process and approach to problems. In the end, the most exciting part of this endeavor is that the lessons learned here are only the beginning. Whether I continue to work on my map and website in the future remains up in the air, but the process the I underwent will continue to influence my forthcoming work. The critical thinking and the self-awareness that was required to create my own project from scratch will definitely prove useful in my academic, professional and personal life going forward.




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