Blog Post

#SouthwesternDH: Regional Collaborations and Local Histories

Field of snow, tall pine trees in the background, building obscured by trees in the background

(cross-posted from recoveryprojectappblog.wordpress.com)

A couple of weeks ago, my colleagues, Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura (Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston and Executive Editor at Arte Público Press) and Elizabeth Grumbach (Director of Digital Content and Special Programs for HASTAC @ ASU and Project Manager for the Nexus Digital Research Co-op at Arizona State University) travelled to Utah State University for the 3rd Utah Symposium on Digital Humanities. Together, we presented a panel titled, “Elaborating and Advancing #SouthwesternDH: An Interactive Organizing Panel” (see full abstract and links to the conference website and schedule below). Here are a few notes from the panel discussion.

Why create regional collaborations?

One of the big questions we were asked was, “Why create regional collaborations?” People wanted to know why we set out to collect links to US Latinx and Southwestern DH projects and why we created a crowdsourced Google spreadsheet for people to contribute these links.

The Digital Humanities offers a great opportunity for humanists to collaborate with each other and with librarians, archivists, and information scientists. The field invites interdisciplinary collaboration, whether within the same university or across multiple institutions. Knowing who is doing what makes scholarship less isolating, and it provides you with a network for possible collaboration. Just because you already have a free-standing project or archive doesn't mean it has to stand in isolation. As an example of a multi-institutional project, I mentioned an IMLS-funded, multi-institutional project I worked on in the past, the Our Americas Archive Partnership. This collaboration created a tool for searching various repositories at once, while also framing the selected collections within a hemispheric perspective. The project brought together collections from Rice University, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), and Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora’s Ernesto de la Torre Villar Library. Another example is Around DH in 80 Days, which highlights 80 DH projects from around the world. Our panel suggests that we should also consider forming collaborative projects that are more regionally specific.

The Colored Conventions’ Black Digital Humanities Projects & Resources list inspired Recovery and HASTAC to create a crowd-sourced spreadsheet to document US Latinx and Southwestern projects. More and more lists of this sort are popping up on the Internet. Doctoral Student, Nikki Stevens even posted a HASTAC blog entry, “A list of DH lists” that—as her title suggests—lists several DH lists.

What's the link between DH and Public Humanities?

Another discussion that came about during our interactive panel was how regional-specific work lends itself to public history work. Often, humanists tell themselves that local history belongs to the community and that our work ultimately benefits the community. This is not always the case. Too often historical scholarship on local communities—especially communities of color—remains inaccessible outside of the university. Digital Humanities, however, offers an avenue for creating public access to local histories. As Baeza Ventura and Recovery's Director of Research, Carolina Villarroel, continuously mention in their presentations, when dealing with community histories, it's important to keep in mind how digitization makes postcustodial archives possible. In other words, libraries, institutions, and scholars do not need to physically own community materials in order to manage records. Instead (as Recovery has been doing from the start), archives and scholars can digitize collections and return them to their rightful owners, then (with permission) share these archives in accessible ways that make sense for the collection. Here lies the opportunity to make local histories accessible to communities they represent.

#SouthwesternDH and #usLdh

The whole point behind having an interactive panel was to think through the importance of collaboration, ways to collaborate, and ways to network scholars together. We hope that this panel, our hashtags (#SouthwesterDH, #usldh), and our crowdsourced list will serve as a way for scholars to start creating fruitful networks; and that these networks will also lead to engaging public humanities projects.

Further Reading

Abstract: Elaborating and Advancing #SouthwesternDH: An Interactive Organizing Panel

Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Executive editor of Arte Publico Press
Caronina A. Villarroel, Director of Research at Recovery
Lorena Gauthereau, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
Jacqueline Wernimont, Nexus ASU and co-Director, HASTAC
Elizabeth Grumbach, Nexus ASU and HASTAC, Director of Digital Content and Special Programs

Our interactive panel is designed to focus on emerging regional alliances and future regional collaborations. Now in its third year, the Utah Symposium on the Digital Humanities has drawn together digital scholars of the southwest and beyond, and our panel proposes to harness this regional energy to enhance existing networks. We will begin with details about the regional and thematic alliance developed by the new University of Houston’s Latina/o Digital Humanities Center and the newly configured ASU Nexus Digital Research Co-op - an alliance that has begun organizing using the #SouthwesternDH hashtag.

Following introductory comments, our panel will facilitate a discussion with our participating audience on the needs of a #SouthwesternDH community, collaboratively document the conversation, and share that document with symposium attendees and beyond.

Other participatory discussions may include methods of sharing resources and goals, models of existing regional and thematic alliances, academic infrastructures that both support and hinder cross-institutional collaboration, and community archives, activism, and collaboration across institutional and physical borders.

Developing regional relationships allows us to elaborate and advance our distinctive southwestern approaches to DH, which includes our shared interests in critical race and gender studies, borderland and border theories, justice within multiple and overlapping sovereign spaces, and hybridized and resistant technology and art practices. In developing a regional coalition our interactive panel engages the symposium theme both theoretically and in embodied representation - we are foregrounding the work of traditionally underrepresented peoples and knowledge systems, including those who are not well represented by traditional “centers” on the eastern and western coasts of North America.

This panel builds on several recent developments in #SouthwesternDH including:

The 2017 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant awarded to the University of Houston to establish the first digital humanities center to specialize in US Latinx Studies.
The collaboration between the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project (Recovery) and Arte Público Press at the University of Houston to create new opportunities for the digital publication of Latinx scholarship and projects.
Arizona State University’s new role as the co-institutional hub for HASTAC, the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory.

We began developing #SouthwesternDH at the 2017 Digital Frontiers conference in Texas. Our hope is that the proposed interactive panel will create a forum in which we can share ideas and scholarship to build on and support efforts already underway in other southwestern locations, including the DH communities at Utah, Utah State, and UNLV, as well as allied groups like those in media archeology at CU Boulder.

See also:

3rd Utah Symposium on Digital Humanities (website). https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/dhu3/

3rd Utah Symposium on Digital Humanities (conference schedule). https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/dhu3/2018/all2018/

Grumbach, Liz. "#SouthwesternDH at DHU3." HASTAC. 18 Feb. 2018. www.hastac.org/blogs/egrumbach/2018/02/18/southwesterndh-dhu3

Stevens, Nikki. "A List of DH Lists." HASTAC. 19 JAN. 2018. www.hastac.org/blogs/nikkistevens/2018/01/19/list-dh-lists

US Latinx and SouthwesternDH projects (crowd-sourced list): https://goo.gl/7Vf8vM 

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