Blog Post

Introduction Scholars 2014

Hello HASTAC Scholars:

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the History Department at Duke University. I specialize in Caribbean and Afro-Latin American history. This year is my second year as a HASTAC Scholar, and I am excited and honored to be a part of the 2014 HASTAC Scholars group.

As a HASTAC scholar, I blog about DH events at Duke and new digital methods available to historians; I am especially interested in text-mining and mapping tools. I also co-administer the Digital History group on HASTAC, and hope that many of you will join in the discussions there—especially the year-long Book Review Series.

 

Why I HASTAC

I applied to be a HASTAC Scholar because of my desire to understand new ways of communicating and sharing knowledge across fields. The traditional historian spends the bulk of her time in isolation. Research in the archives and writing at home or in the office are activities that require individualized concentration. Yet, all historians have benefitted from critique and the advice of others. How does technology allow us to engage in these types of discussions more often? I hope that my HASTAC experience will provide me with answers to this question not only through blogs about Digital Humanities and its applicability to academic careers, but also in practice. As a HASTAC Scholar, I look forward to engaging in debates about research methods, race & identity, religion, history and language.

My Research

My dissertation examines the establishment of U.S. Protestant religion in the Spanish Caribbean, particularly the Dominican Republic, during the twentieth century. I am especially interested in the question of “cultural imperialism.” What does this term mean as it relates to Christian missions in the Caribbean during a time when the United States sought to establish itself as a world power? Who were the people involved in spreading Protestantism in traditionally Catholic Caribbean countries? And, in what ways did missionaries’ beliefs about God, race, and the role of the nation drive their actions? Although most people typically think of the missionary enterprise as a “top-down” imposition of religious culture, I am interested in the ways that Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and others were involved in the process. My dissertation will examine the history of Protestantism in the Dominican Republic from both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The goal is to deconstruct the multiple social components of the U.S. missionary enterprise in order to demonstrate the important role that Caribbean subjects played in establishing Protestant Christianity in the region. Beyond archival research and oral histories, I will use relatively new digital methods– text mining and digital visualization–to study the connections between Protestantism and US Imperialism on the level of discourse and social networks.

A Little More about Me

I grew up in Skokie, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago that is known for its diversity. Walking down the hallway of my public high school, I used to hear languages from all over the world; my best friends in high school were second-generation immigrants from India, Egypt, and Mexico. Language, culture, and questions of identity were always at the forefront of my mind. These early experiences led me to cherish the study of language and history. They also helped me to understand the importance of communication across cultures and physical space, and ultimately led me to study the region of Latin America in college. After graduating from Yale University in 2009 with a B.A. in Latin American Studies, I joined the Duke History Department in 2010 to study Latin American and Caribbean History. I earned my M.A. in History from Duke in 2013, and am currently working on my dissertation.

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