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Editors’ Note: July 2023

Editors' note on the July 2023 issue of Reviews in Digital Humanities, guest edited by Roopika Risam and Kelly Baker Josephs

Published onJul 31, 2023
Editors’ Note: July 2023

Editors’ Note

Jennifer Guiliano and Roopika Risam

Welcome to the July 2023 issue of Reviews in Digital Humanities. This month, we are pleased to bring you a new special issue, “The Digital Black Atlantic,” edited by Roopika and guest editor Kelly Baker Josephs. This issue sheds light on a range of exciting projects in African diaspora studies.

In the early years of Reviews, we used special issues to highlight areas of digital humanities scholarship that are crucial to the values and core mission of the journal: not only building capacity for peer review within digital humanities communities writ large but also showcasing the work of areas of research that don’t get their due in mainstream digital humanities publications. As we have shifted to our new model, where topic editors cultivate these areas, we have been thinking about how special issues should be used. Certainly, special issues can cover any area, but we are also interested in their strategic uses.

“The Digital Black Atlantic” special issue is one such example, as we experiment with creating issues based on published books. Roopika and Kelly had co-edited the volume The Digital Black Atlantic in the Debates in Digital Humanities series at the University of Minnesota Press (also available open access), so Jennifer approached them with the idea of editing a special issue based on the book. This special issue, therefore, is a use case for building on scholarship published in more traditional channels. It gives special attention to digital projects that might otherwise be buried in the text of the book and shares them with the Reviews community. In addition, special issues like this one draw attention to the original publications. We hope you enjoy the projects in this issue.

And, as always: if you are interested in editing a special issue of Reviews (whether on a book or another topic), exploring the possibility of a partnership, or nominating a project for review, drop us a note at [email protected]!

Questions? Thoughts? Concerns? Contact the editors, Jennifer Guiliano and Roopika Risam, by email or through the Twitter hashtag #ReviewsInDH.

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Guest Editors’ Note

Roopika Risam and Kelly Baker Josephs

In early 2021, our edited collection The Digital Black Atlantic was published in the Debates in Digital Humanities series at University of Minnesota Press. The first collection to showcase scholarship on digital humanities in, of, and on the Black diaspora, The Digital Black Atlantic crosses disciplines and methods. Uniting the broad range of scholarship in African diaspora studies, our volume aims to clear space for the continued growth in this area by assembling a citable body of scholarship. 

The “Black Atlantic” forms both the theoretical core and articulating principle for this volume. When he published The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness in 1993, Paul Gilroy effected a seismological shift in Black studies, making space — and language —for conceptualizing Blackness across the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa. While Gilroy’s initial work was limited in scope, scholars since have bolstered and expanded the utility of “the Black Atlantic” as both a methodological approach and an object of study. Our volume continues in this tradition, integrating the negotiation of digital tools and technologies with the primary questions of Black Atlantic studies.

Therefore, as we articulate it, the digital Black Atlantic posits links between the socio-technical practices adopted by people of the African diaspora across communities in Africa, Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Recognizing the specificities of digital practices within these geographical areas, we also emphasize their connections across space and time to insist on the roles that racism, enslavement, and colonialism have played in the engagement of African-descended people with technology but, more critically, to emphasize their resistance through technology. As we note in our introduction, “In the space between ‘digital’ and ‘humanities’ where Blackness and technology meet, the digital Black Atlantic pushes back against the ways that technologies have historically been and continue to be used to disempower Black communities (and also against the dominance of such narratives) to instead emphasize how Black communities have taken advantage of the affordances of technology to assert their humanity, histories, knowledges, and expertise.” The growth of scholarship in the digital Black Atlantic depends on sustained attention to the methodological interventions that it makes possible.

 The volume’s chapters are organized into four sections that reflect these conceptual Black Atlantic concerns: “Memory,” “Crossings,” “Relations,” and “Becomings.” “Memory” situates the histories of and contemporary archival impulses toward African diasporic experiences in the digital milieu. “Crossings” encompasses the fluid and flexible ways that Black Atlantic digital humanities negotiates movement across time and space, forging varied spatial and temporal relationships. Derived from Édouard Glissant’s complex conception of networked creolized cultures, the section on “Relations” reveals the rhizomatic connections created via exchanges across Black Atlantic spaces, whether digital, analog, or in between. Finally, “Becomings” outlines the dreams and aspirations of the digital Black Atlantic, as scholars continue to create and imagine new configurations for the African diaspora in the digital cultural record. 

As we were thinking about how to spread word of the volume, given the timing of our book release during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jennifer Guiliano, Roopika’s co-editor at Reviews in Digital Humanities, suggested we be a use case for the journal by creating a special issue that highlighted digital projects that appear in The Digital Black Atlantic. While Roopika was initially concerned about using a book she co-edited as a use case, it seemed like an important opportunity to share the groundbreaking digital scholarship represented in the volume.

We invited directors of all projects in the volume to be part of the issue and five expressed interest in having their projects peer reviewed. The five projects in this special issue highlight a range of methods in African diaspora digital humanities. In this issue, we review: 

  • Musical Passage, an exploration of early African diasporic music, directed by Laurent Dubois, Mary Caton Lingold, and David K. Garner, and reviewed by Anna E. Kijas;

  • Singing the Nation, a digital project on contemporary resonance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” directed by Sonya Donaldson, and reviewed by Traci Parker;

  • Imagined Homeland, a project exploring locations referenced in the literature of Dominica, directed by Schuyler Esprit, and reviewed by Kimberly Takahata;

  • In the Same Boats, a digital map exploring the travels of Afro-Atlantic intellectuals, directed by Kaiama L. Glover and Alex Gil, and reviewed by Andrew Sluyter; and

  • Digital Library of the Caribbean, a digital library focused on preservation and access, housed at University of Florida Libraries, and reviewed by DaNia Childress.

We hope you enjoy the issue and check out The Digital Black Atlantic in print or open access online.

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