Haiti @ the Digital Crossroads: Archiving Black Sovereignty Together
Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 5:00pm
How can we avoid replicating a colonialist mentality while using archives to tell the stories of colonized peoples?In the spirit of Papa Legba (a Haitian lwa who opens the crossroads between the human and non-human worlds), in this talk I examine the critical challenges and opportunities presented when using a digital humanities framework to mining archives about nineteenth-century Haiti. Abdul JanMohamed and David Lloyd have written about "Archival work, as a form of counter-memory," which they say remains "essential to the critical articulation of minority discourse." However, because archives, like other kinds of texts, reflect the worldview of their creators, the archivist working to articulate "minority discourse" must be careful not to reproduce patterns of domination or cultural exploitation. For Haiti, this means that we must work against the idea that the abundant historical resources now made readily (and often freely) available by various European and U.S. American digitization projects represent a "new frontier" for research, an idea which sustains the notion that the country is "open for business" on a variety of levels. Instead, I argue that the metaphor of the crossroads can help us to find alternative approaches that will encourage the development of the multi-modal and collaborative methods needed to (humanely) archive black sovereignty in Haiti ansan.