It feels great to be “back.” In the summer of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the privilege to serve as a Summer Fellow in the Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio. The experience was unprecedented. Not only was it fully remote, but the fellowship represented my first time having the space to conceptualize a digital humanities project from start to finish. Luckily, while I am completing the capstone to receive the Public Digital Humanities graduate certificate, I get to return and pick up where I left off. I say “back” because things are certainly not the same; most work is remote, with a few masked in-person meetings. Who would have thought human connection would be so crucial for a digital project?
My development as a scholar has also changed quite a bit since I was last in the Studio. While developing my project, “Disrupting the Reparations Timeline,” I was focused on building a digital project that aided my research on the inventive ways Ta-Nehisi Coates uses alternative constructions of time (temporality) to shift the grounds of the reparations debate. I successfully built a non-linear digital timeline/archive to illuminate the profound rhetorical work within his essay “The Case for Reparations” (catch up on what I did here, here, and here). Since completing my project, my research has taken a turn towards heavily engaging Asian American Studies, focusing on how conceptions of time, such as “progress” narratives, contribute to the racialization of Asian American communities historically. Thus, while my interest in the relationship between racism and time has remained the same, where I disentangle that relationship has shifted.
The reason I am in the Studio has also changed from my days as a Summer Fellow. This semester I have the space to complete the capstone for the digital humanities certificate, and I am excited by what the environment provides. What I hope to accomplish during the semester is twofold. My main goal is to get my “Disrupting the Reparations Timeline” fully available online. While I have the timeline finished and the backend code for a website complete, I was never able to get it hosted on a server and available for the public. I have received several inquiries about the project and would like to be able to send it out to those who are interested in engaging with the reparations debate and Coates’ timely essay (pun intended). I’ll be working with Nikki White to get the website off the ground and running. Doing so will also allow me to reflect on the project’s trajectory and where I see it going. Once I have the 1.0 version complete, I plan to map out the project’s future directions and how I see it expanding and growing.
The second goal of the semester is to explore digital Asian American archives. While I prepare for my comprehensive exams this semester, I am also thinking about the potential case studies that will comprise my dissertation. Thus, while I am searching the internet for primary sources that could serve my interest in how conceptions of white, Western “progress” serve to solidify the exclusion of Asians from citizenship and belonging in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, I am engaging the form and construction of the archives I encounter along the way. What constitutes an “Asian American” archive? How is “Asian America” constructed through these digital archives? What materials comprise an “Asian American” archive? What are the digital affordances of a digital form for these archives? How do the digital components of the archive implicate the construction of “Asian America”? The questions I am asking are expansive. I hope through my exploration of the archives I engage across the semester, I can begin to piece together contingent answers to the relationship between “Asian America” and digital archival spaces.
The semester continues to hold great promise. I have begun working towards both goals and look forward to sharing where I end up in another few weeks.
– Andrew Boge