Sunday, October 25, 2020

#MyNameIs as a Return to Identity Work: #Hashtag Activism in 2020

[I've been compiling a small collection of Tweets using the #MyNameIs hashtag. The following are some preliminary reflections on what I've been finding along the way.]

What does it mean to be "Brown" in 2020? By and large, it seems to mean: putting the question on hold. The Trump administration has been an extremely difficult time for thinking about new and emergent identities, for doing what we might call "identity work": the work of defining emergent communities, finding language, and earning recognition in public life.


For many, the Trump years have been a period of frustration and retrenchment, where the President’s ever-multiplying race-related outrages and insults have left us very little space to think and reflect with any degree of nuance about our relationship to identity. Why does it matter what “Brown” might mean when there’s a pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting Black and Latinx Americans; when there are children in cages; when the President is trying to build a wall on the southern border; when there’s Charlottesville; when he says “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”; when there’s George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others; when there’s a Muslim immigration ban that’s been upheld by the Supreme Court; when African countries and nations like Haiti are referred to as “Shithole” countries -- and on and on and on? Identity does not feel that important when all of this is going on: what matters is resistance. In times of crisis, allyship comes easily; we can think about terminology and concepts later.


But sometime soon, it may be possible to make some headway with this conversation again. I see the recent hashtag #MyNameIs, which emerged on Twitter about ten days ago, as a fresh start in a long-running series of conversations about emergent Brown identity. As the young folks say, “it gives me life.” We have more work to do here, and I think many of us are ready to start doing that work again.  


---------


#MyNameIs and the Legacy of “#Hashtag Activism”


My thinking here is informed in large part by the recent book by Brooke Foucault Welles, Moya Bailey, and Sarah J. Jackson, #Hashtag Activism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice. Welles, Bailey, and Jackson write about how hashtags represent the mobilization of “counterpublics” in the era of social media, arguing, suggesting that the phrase refers to “the strategic ways counterpublic groups and their allies on Twitter employ this shortcut to make political contentions about identity politics that advocate for social change, identity redefinition, and political inclusion.” I see #MyNameIs as fitting perfectly into that model of both identity formation and social and political mobilization.


Backstory: In the scope of things, the #MyNameIs hashtag on Twitter might not be a huge deal.  It emerged shortly after Georgia Senator David Perdue made fun of Senator Kamala Harris’ first name at a rally on Friday, October 16: "Ka-MAL-a, Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I don't know, whatever." The hashtag had a brief spike online over the next few days, before beginning to subside. The most popular tweets with this hashtag have had circulation in what might be thought of as a moderate range for a hashtag of this sort: Likes in the tens of thousands, and Retweets in the thousands. This is relatively modest compared to the hashtags that are considered by the authors of #Hashtag Activism: #MeToo, #SayHerName, and  #BlackLivesMatter. 


For those of us studying U.S. immigrant identities and cultures, the hashtag is a big deal. It is, of course, linked to the prospect of the first South Asian origin person, Kamala Harris, potentially entering the White House as a Vice Presidential candidate. But with that there are a whole host of figures in public life who see themselves as linked to Kamala Harris’ life and story. Many of them are Black and South Asian American, but folks from other backgrounds also appear to see the background and upbringing of Kamala Harris as connected to their own experience. With a substantial number of non-South Asian origin folks, such as Ilhan Omar, Ted Lieu, and Ayanna Pressley, joining the Hashtag with their own Tweets, a broader movement may be in the works. We could think of this broader movement as an emergent Brown identity.


Let’s take a step back and follow the Hashtag as it emerged. The origin point for #MyNameIs appears to be Gautam Raghavan, who first Tweeted a #MyNameIs Hashtag post on Saturday 10/17 around noon. 


My great grandmother’s name was Kamala. Not “Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever.”


#MyNameIs Gautam. It means bright light. The kind of bright light a Biden-Harris Administration will represent. And that is why #IWillVote.


Join me & make a plan at http://IWillVote.com. (17k likes; 2.5 k retweets; link)



Raghavan’s post was soon Quote-retweeted by Meena Harris -- Kamala Harris’ niece (and Maya Harris’ daughter). 


#MyNameIs Meenakshi. I'm named after the Hindu goddess, as well as my great great grandmother. I come from a long line of strong women who taught me to be proud of my heritage and to demand respect—especially from racist white men like @sendavidperdue who are threatened by us. (814 replies; 25k likes; 4.6k retweets; link)


Both of these early Tweets establish the theme of the hashtag: that people, presumably with “funny” names that are frequently mispronounced and mocked, affirm the provenance and dignity of their names. The second part of both Meena Harris’s and Gautam Raghavan’s tweets are also oriented towards a political outcome -- rebuking Senator David Perdue and supporting Democrats running for office. And indeed, in this political season, quite a number of the tweets that would follow would also invoke politics -- most, but not all. (My own interest here goes beyond the immediate concerns of the current election.)


A few prominent South Asian origin figures in politics and journalism on Twitter replied with smart Tweets: 


Preet Bharara

#MyNameIs Preet, which means love.


Anand Girdharadas

#MyNameIs Anand, which means happiness. We will deal with my last name later.


Kal Penn

#MyNameIs Kalpen. I started going by Kal Penn to help me get a job & am more than happy to give @SenDavidPerdue some tips on finding a new one of his own.


Maya Harris (Kamala’s sister)

Scrolling through #MyNameIs at the end of a long day & it’s giving me life.


My name is Maya (magic/illusion) Lakshmi (goddess of beauty & wealth). People mispronounce my names all the time, but you can’t tell me nothin’. I know who I am. Show these folks who we are. #VOTE

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal


#MyNameIs Pramila. It comes from the Sanskrit word “prem” which means love. The name is constantly mispronounced as is my last name. I only mind that when it is done willfully and continuously. Let’s build an inclusive America. Vote #BidenHarris2020. Our vote, our power.


From the list above, Kal Penn’s Tweet stands out -- it reminds one of early 2000s conversations we’ve had about the foreignness of South Asian names going back to the days of Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and the "Macaca" event in a Virginia Governor's race in 2006. By and large the story of that earlier discussion is that many immigrants and their second-generation children find nicknames and simplified pronunciation to make their way easier in diasporic contexts where “Kalpen” is too difficult and foreign-sounding for an actor aspiring to a mainstream career. 


The way a public figure with a difficult name handles that name tells us a lot about their relationship to identity. In the 2008 election season, for instance, there was a clear contrast between the way Bobby Jindal presented himself in public life and the way Barack Obama did. Obama, in early speeches, often self-deprecatingly described himself as a “skinny kid with a funny name,” but he notably did not use his available nickname (“Barry”) when running for public office: he stuck with Barack. And he succeeded. Bobby Jindal, by contrast, seemed to succeed in Louisiana in large part by concealing any traces of “difference" -- beginning with his given name, Piyush -- while all the same pointing to a generic “model minority” immigrant success story as justification for his conservative politics. Even though Barack Obama identifies as Black and has always been known as such, the conversations about his name may be seen as similar because of his father’s Kenyan background. 


That debate links up with other conversations about a gathering new wave of affirmative “Brown” identity, where there is a strong desire not to compromise in the ways the earlier generation might have done. Two figures associated with a new Brown performativity might be Hari Kondabolu and Hasan Minhaj. The latter has even made the assertion of the correct pronunciation of his name an important part of his comedy routines, and confronted prominent TV hosts like Ellen DeGeneres when the latter mispronounced his name in an interview. 


Many of the first people to reply to Meena Harris were of South Asian (and largely Hindu) origin, but as the meme grew it proliferated and changed in some subtle ways. 


Here are some from folks who are not of South Asian origin, but who are clearly ‘getting’ the meme: 


Senator Ted Lieu: 


#MyNameIs Ted W. Lieu. The “W” is short for “Win-Ping” which in Mandarin means Cloud of Peace. 


Also, make sure you vote. And if you are voting by mail, don’t forget the stupid secrecy envelope if your state requires it. (4.9k retweets; 28.8k likes; link)


Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley:


#MyNameIs Ayanna Soyini Pressley. My mother, may she rest in power, gave me this name which means beautiful flower in Swahili. She told me I’d make history and the world would learn how to say it right.


Congresswoman Ilhan Omar


#MyNameIs Ilham, I prefer Ilhan. I never liked the M sound. It means “Inspiration” in Arabic. My father named me Ilham and inspired me to lead a life of service to others. In his honor I am voting for an inspirational ticket over desperate and maddening one.


Nusheen Ameenuddin 


#MyNameIs Nusheen Ameenuddin. Nusheen is Persian & it means a sweet dream that comes true. Ameenuddin is Urdu/Arabic & it means trustworthy upholder pf the faith. My names mean something important. I will help you pronounce them. It’s easier than you think.


PA State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta:


#MyNameIs Malcolm Kenyatta. My father named me to honor the legacy of two giants in the black diaspora: Malcolm X and Jomo Kenyatta. @sendavidperdue might not care, but my name reminds me everyday the systems of discrimination we must uproot.


I find the Tweets by Congresswomen Pressley and Omar particularly inspiring. Ilhan Omar’s fits especially well: her story of altering her given name slightly to preference (Ilham to Ilhan) resembles a story that many South Asian American people can tell about their uneasiness with the sound of some names in American English. 


(If you’d like to see more examples of the #MyNameIs hashtag, you can do pretty well just by searching Twitter directly. However, for archival purposes I’ve compiled a number of Tweets under the #MyNameIs hashtag here, using the “Twurl” command and the Twitter API.)



My favorite #MyNameIs post is actually a thread by journalist Asha Rangappa, which I'll post in its entirety below:


#MyNameIs Asha. It means Hope. But that is my middle name. My first name is Renuka (pronounced RAY-noo-Kah) which has a story Renuka was a heavenly nymph, who was married to Jamadagni, someone who was blessed by the Gods because of his devotion. Renuka was also blessed by her devotion, and from that was so powerful she was able to go to the beach and make pots out of sand (so she was the breadwinner)

One day, while at the shore to make her sand pots, she saw another couple, making love. She for a nanosecond thought of their bond. But because she thought of another man for a moment, she lost her purity, as well as her ability to make pots out of sand 3/

When she arrived home, with no pots, her husband, Jamadgani, knew immediately what had happened, and was ENRAGED. He therefore ordered his eldest son to kill him mother (domestic violence, anyone?). He refused (🙌🏾) 4/

Jamadagni then called on his second oldest son, who also refused. And then his third. Who also refused. And then his fourth (no luck). Finally, he called on his fifth son, Parashurama, who obeyed his father without question and executed his mom with an ax 5/ 

Jamadagni was so pleased with Parashurama's obedience -- for obeying his orders without question -- that he offered P a boon (a wish). Parashuarama wished for his mother, and his brothers, to be brought back to life (I forgot to note that J had killed his other sons in fury) 6/ 

Soooo....Renuka was brought back to life, and her spirit multiplied. She is now worshipped in many parts of India Smiling face with open mouth Woman dancing Raising hands 7/ 

Unfortunately, while growing up, my name caused a lot of problems for me. Teachers often skipped my name when calling roll. And when "Ren & Stimpy" got big, I got a lot of teasing. So I started going by Asha in college (my family and HS friends still call me Renuka) 8/ 

That's just a note to say that when people deliberately mispronounce your name, it's incredibly hurtful, and is an example of racism. And also a reason that *some* people might choose to go by their "middle" name. JUST SAYING /END

Asha Rangappa here tells a story about her given name that's informative and detailed, and the turn at the end (Tweet #8) is one that many participants in #MyNameIs describe: a moment where they deliberately decided to change their name, or use a nickname rather than persist with a name that appears to cause too much difficulty for others. 

In some cases, this adoption of an easier nickname or a middle name isn't as obviously an attempt to assimilate as "Piyush" becoming "Bobby" (inspired, apparently, by the character on The Brady Bunch). The author Jhumpa Lahiri, for instance, comes from a Bengali background where most children are assigned a 'familiar name' (a nickname used by family members and close friends) and a formal name (used in public). As she's described in interviews over the years, Lahiri's formal name is actually "Nilanjana"; she opted to use her familiar name "Jhumpa" when she initiated her career as an author. 


My Own #MyNameIs Story


I suppose I might as well end with a brief meditation on my own #MyNameIs story. I tried my hand at Tweeting with this hashtag: 

#MyNameIs Amardeep, which means "eternal light." Most people who know me call me "Deep"; I try to see the light in everyone. We don't all have to like one another, but we all deserve to have our names respected, whether given or chosen.

What I didn't say is this: "Deep" was also my familiar name growing up in a Punjabi household in the Washington, DC area. As a teenager, I never quite liked it, in part because the cognate with the English word "deep" tended to invite jokes ("You're so deep!"). Still, at times -- and I now find this embarrassing -- I played into that laughter. At one point I even did segments for my high school's Video club called "Deep Thoughts," where I made satirical pseudo-philosophical meditations. 

But on the whole, as a young person I came to feel that "Deep" was too personal and intimate: the cultural sense of a pet-name is that it belongs to your family, not the outside world. So as a first-year college student, I decided I would try a change: I introduced myself to everyone in my freshman dorm at Cornell as "Amardeep."  

But something wasn't right. It wasn't just that people I met found my full name difficult. The name just didn't quite feel like me. So, after a few months, I switched back. 

Since then, my name in public and in print has always been Amardeep, but to most nearly everyone in my everyday life I am still "Deep." Jokes or no jokes.

So where are we? Essentially, this: the challenge of navigating a foreign-sounding name in the U.S. is not a trivial one. People have different strategies for dealing with it, and I respect those choices. I respect and am fine with Kalpen Modi becoming Kal Penn, with Renuka Asha Rangappa becoming Asha Rangappa, and with Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri becoming Jhumpa Lahiri. I'm even fine with Piyush Jindal becoming Bobby Jindal, if Bobby feels right.

That said, we clearly have a ways to go in terms of reaching a point where names the non-easy versions of our names are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. America, you have work to do: David Perdue, for one thing, needs to apologize for what he said about the name Kamala. But we ourselves -- immigrants and the descendants of immigrants, have work to do as well, in deciding who we are and how we want to present ourselves. 


Monday, October 19, 2020

#MyNameIs Compilation; Twitter Developers API for dummies

I applied to get "Developer" privileges to be able to access the Twitter API, after realizing that Twitter does not allow public scraping using simple Python scripts. The API does allow this sort of thing, though it's fairly involved and difficult to do.

The main goal of course is to set up a structure for the students in my Digital Humanities class -- to help them gather data related to hashtags they themselves might want to research. We'll see if that's actually possible -- and assess their interest in stuff like this -- when we start a unit on social media next week. 

* * * 
First, the process for getting approval was fairly involved -- I had to answer a pretty detailed series of questions about how I'm going to use the access. 

Second, once you get approved for access, there's a learning curve with respect to how to use the API. After messing around unsuccessfully with the methods they themselves suggest and their Cloud-based system (using an app called "Postman"), I went to Google and settled on the method outlined here. Essentially, you install Ruby and a Ruby gem called Twurl, which you can run from the Command Line. Then you have to get authorization to scrape using the two API Keys you get when you create a Project in the Developers menu on Twitter API.

After you've gotten authorization by entering the keys, you can run an authorized scrape of Hashtag data using a simple command like this:

twurl "/1.1/search/tweets.json?q=#MyNameIs&result_type=popular" -j > MyNameIs2.json

That produces a fairly complicated looking file on your hard drive in the .json format. You can "parse" the output file using an online parser like this one

You can also try a .JSON --> .CSV parser like this one (limit: file has to be less than 1 MB for the free version).  Another one I tried is this one; this last one has no limit. 

If you convert the .JSON file to .CSV, you should be able to open the file in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets and just extract the sections of the table that are relevant to you (the ones most relevant to me are the Tweet text and the User name). 

More modifiers. You can modify the Twurl command to get more specific about the kind of results you want. For instance, I tried this command to try and get extended tweets and request 100 results at a time:

twurl "/1.1/search/tweets.json?q=#MyNameIs&tweet_mode=extended&count=100" -j > MyNameIs.json 

There are more variations here.

* * *

Some of my preliminary results can be viewed at this Google Docs Spreadsheet. I'm also pasting some select results below. 



List generated by Twurl: 

Asha Rangappa:

"#MyNameIs Asha. It means Hope. But that is my middle name. My first name is Renuka (pronounced RAY-noo-Kah) which h… https://t.co/jyRCjVTx7D"

"#MyNameIs Mimi. It’s pronounced MeMe (not MyMy or MiiMii) & it means I’m done worrying about whether older men will… https://t.co/SR8HFVZYAW"

"#MyNameIs Stephanie which most likely means I was born in New Jersey in the 70s to a Mom & generations of women who… https://t.co/sV3nU97YVM"

Meena Harris:

"#MyNameIs Meenakshi. I'm named after the Hindu goddess, as well as my great great grandmother. I come from a long l… https://t.co/2wCQmrboKv"


".#MyNameIs Lea Thompson. It's pronounced LEE Ah. My mom spelled it that way because my dad was stationed in Pearl H… https://t.co/31vEVP09E8"

#MyNameIs is Krupali which means compassion in Sanskrit. Little white kids used to make fun of my name when I was a kid. Now, a Republican Senator mocks the name of @KamalaHarris. Go to http://iWillVote.com to make a plan to #vote  for leaders who respect our values. #iWillVote


Senator Ted Lieu:

"#MyNameIs Ted W. Lieu. The “W” is short for “Win-Ping” which in Mandarin means Cloud of Peace. Also, make sure yo… https://t.co/DknDT2A4BF"


Maya Harris (Kamala's sister)

"Scrolling through #MyNameIs at the end of a long day & it’s giving me life.💜 My name is Maya (magic/illusion) Laks… https://t.co/5v1GtntIAm"


"#mynameis Jahana /juh-ha’-nuh/ (noun): (1) smart, strong, compassionate leader; (2) Congresswoman, teacher, wif… https://t.co/sx1kv7MSW3"


"#MyNameIs Maria de Lourdes Hinojosa Ojeda and it’s all Mexican and catholic and one day I will sign off by saying i… https://t.co/IvVQb8O02X"


Anand Giridaradhas:

"#MyNameIs Anand, which means happiness. We will deal with my last name later. https://t.co/UD6lJXvwiG"


Preet Bharara:

"#MyNameIs Preet, which means love. https://t.co/JSO0zB77aR"

"#MyNameIs Daniel Dae Hyun Kim, or in Korean, 김대현. It means “great and powerful one.” My name is not “Macaca” or “Ku… https://t.co/s8tDiBHMbY"

"#MyNameIs Michelle Wing Kwan & in Chinese pinyin it's pronounced Guan Ying Shan. It means beautiful, strong and sma… https://t.co/VSFo0RzzOj"

"#MyNameIs Eric. My first name in Chinese was “Liang”, which means “bright”. As a child immigrant to the US, I cho… https://t.co/k2fhKpB7ka"

"#MyNameIs Debra. My family comes from Poland and Russia. I stand with #Kamala. #Georgia #DavidPerdue is a DISGRAC… https://t.co/uz4EYPr0gt"


Actor Kal Penn:

"#MyNameIs Kalpen. I started going by Kal Penn to help me get a job & am more than happy to give @SenDavidPerdue som… https://t.co/jaWZIgn7lt"


* * * 
List generated by simply Copying and Pasting from Twitter:


Zara Ahmed, DrPH

#MyNameIs Zara. My parents spent a lot of time and energy picking out a name that would be easily pronounceable for non-Indian people. But they shouldn’t have had to do that. It shouldn’t be on POC to shave off pieces of our culture to make life easier for white people.

Ayanna Pressley


US House candidate, MA-7

#MyNameIs Ayanna Soyini Pressley. My mother, may she rest in power, gave me this name which means beautiful flower in Swahili. She told me I’d make history and the world would learn how to say it right.

Nusheen Ameenuddin MD MPH MPA FAAP

#MyNameIs Nusheen Ameenuddin. Nusheen is Persian & it means a sweet dream that comes true. Ameenuddin is Urdu/Arabic & it means trustworthy upholder pf the faith. My names mean something important. I will help you pronounce them. It’s easier than you think.

Ilhan Omar

US House candidate, MN-5
#MyNameIs Ilham, I prefer Ilhan. I never liked the M sound. It means “Inspiration” in Arabic. My father named me Ilham and inspired me to lead a life of service to others. In his honor I am voting for an inspirational ticket over desperate and maddening one.


Ted Lieu


US House candidate, CA-33

#MyNameIs Ted W. Lieu. The “W” is short for “Win-Ping” which in Mandarin means Cloud of Peace. Also, make sure you vote. And if you are voting by mail, don’t forget the stupid secrecy envelope if your state requires it.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta

#MyNameIs Malcolm Kenyatta. My father named me to honor the legacy of two giants in the black diaspora: Malcolm X and Jomo Kenyatta. @sendavidperdue might not care, but my name reminds me everyday the systems of discrimination we must uproot. twitter.com/meenaharris/st…

Meena Harris

@meenaharris
· Oct 17
#MyNameIs Meenakshi. I'm named after the Hindu goddess, as well as my great great grandmother. I come from a long line of strong women who taught me to be proud of my heritage and to demand respect—especially from racist white men like @sendavidperdue who are threatened by us. twitter.com/gauragDC/statu…


Pramila Jayapal

#MyNameIs Pramila. It comes from the Sanskrit word “prem” which means love. The name is constantly mispronounced as is my last name. I only mind that when it is done willfully and continuously. Let’s build an inclusive America. Vote #BidenHarris2020. Our vote, our power.


Bee Nguyen

#MyNameIs Nguyen. I pronounce it “WIN.” Nguyen stems from the Chinese word “ruan” — a string instrument that is plucked. According to the 2010 Census, it’s the 37th most common surname in the U.S. It’s even on a coke bottle! Can @CocaCola put @KamalaHarris on a bottle?


Ro Khanna


US House candidate, CA-17

#MyNameIs Rohit, and my friends call me Ro. It means bright light in Sanskrit. This election, #IWillVote for an inclusive America by voting for @joebiden & @kamalaharris



Gautam Raghavan

My great grandmother’s name was Kamala. Not “Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever.” #MyNameIs Gautam. It means bright light. The kind of bright light a Biden-Harris Administration will represent. And that is why #IWillVote. Join me & make a plan at http://IWillVote.com.




Dr. Hiral Tipirneni

US House candidate, AZ-6
#MyNameIs Hiral. It means diamond, bright, full of luster. My mom used to say that they picked it because she saw a bright light reflecting from me & a toughness that made me unbreakable. It’s that strength my mom saw in me that gave me the courage to run for Congress.

Parag Mehta


#MyNameIs Parag. It means nectar. My mom named me after the hero in a Bengali romance novel she read as a kid. She wanted her son to have a great love story. And I did. Our names matter. They have meaning and beauty.


Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu


#MyNameIs Adeşola shortened to Sola which I prefer to spell as Shola because the 'ş' is the 'sh' sound. I love my name. In Yoruba it means 'crowned with wealth' or 'this crown makes wealth' as my father explained to me Our names matter - Say. My. Name.

Aftab Pureval


#MyNameIs Aftab. It means sunshine. In one generation, my parents have gone from immigrating to this country to watching their son serve as an elected official. I can’t wait to vote for @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris because they value diversity and believe in our American story.


Linh Nguyen


#MyNameIs Linh Thuy Nguyen. Linh, meaning spirit, soul from Sino-Vietnamese. My dad wanted a traditional name for me to honor our lineage & where we came from. Name pronunciation, and taking the time to do it right, emphasizes safety & belonging, and is a sign of respect.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Announcing: a Digital Edition of the Poems of Henry Derozio

I've been happy to collaborate with Professor Manu Samriti Chander on a digital edition of the poems of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, the first Indian poet to write in English. 

It is essentially finished, though some additional copy-editing and proofreading probably remains to be done (if you see any typos or other errors, please contact me!). I edited it and built the collection, so any glitches you find are my doing. It's completely appropriate that Manu wrote the Preface to the project, for reasons I'll explain. 

Derozio published two books of poems in 1827 and 1828, and had an intense, impactful, but brief career as a professor at Hindu College in Calcutta. He died of cholera in 1831. 

I learned about Derozio through reading Chander's Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century. Among other things, Chander's account of Derozio convinced me of his importance both as a Romantic poet -- and Derozio was intensely interested in and engaged with the writings of British and Irish poets of the 1810s and 20s -- and as a key figure in the emergence of modern Anglophone South Asian literature.

Derozio was criticized by English reviewers even during his life of "imitating" English Romantic poets. And while there is no doubt that he did borrow heavily from the form and style of writers like Byron, Thomas Moore, and others, he also applied his own, distinctly Indian sensibility in his writing. As Chander puts it in his preface to the Digital Edition:

Far from simply following in the footsteps of such popular figures as Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, and Thomas Moore, Derozio uses their work often as a point of departure or as a signpost on his own poetic journey. Indeed, Derozio inaugurated his own tradition in India, inspiring his students to form the Young Bengal Movement. These liberal thinkers and activists were sometimes referred to as “Derozians,” and they carried their teacher’s ideas forward even after his death in 1831. (link)

For more on Derozio's relationship to Romanticism, I would recommend readers to Chander's book, or the books and essays of Professor Rosinka Chaudhuri, who has also edited the Oxford University Press scholarly edition of Derozio's works. 

This digital edition is not meant to supplant Chaudhuri's volume, but rather to provide a convenient point of access to Derozio's works for a broad readership. Among other things, I hope people teaching literature courses -- including specialist courses on Romantic poetry, but also literature surveys, courses on South Asian literature, and others -- will consider assigning Derozio. To faciliate that, I've put together a "Teaching Resource" page on the Scalar site, along with a downloadable PDF with some suggested selections from Derozio's poetry (this might make for a lively one-day unit on Derozio). 


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Fall Teaching: "Decolonizing (Digital) Humanities"

I'm teaching a grad seminar on Digital Humanities this fall. It's the first time I've taught this material formally since Fall 2015, when I co-taught an Intro to DH class with my colleague Ed Whitley. It's a whole new group of students, of course, but also almost an entire turnover in terms of scholarship. 

I'm structuring most of the hands-on work around two Text Corpora I've been developing, one on African American Literature, and the other on Colonial South Asian Literature

If the Canon has been the defining structure of traditional literary studies, in the DH framework the starting point is the Corpus. You can do a lot with a group of texts structured this way -- from Text Analysis, to Natural Language Processing, to thinking about Archives and Editions. As with the Canon, the questions you can ask and the knowledge you can produce are strongly determined by what's included or excluded from the Corpus. 


Course Description: 

This course introduces students to the emerging field of digital humanities scholarship with an emphasis on social justice-oriented projects and practices. The course will begin with a pair of foundational units that aim to define digital humanities as a field, and also to frame what’s at stake. What are the Humanities and why do they matter in the 21st century? How might the advent of digital humanities methods impact how we read and interpret literary texts? Some topics we’ll consider include: Quantifying the Canon, Race, Empire & Gender in Digital Archives, and an introduction to Corpus Text Analysis. Along the way, we’ll explore specific Digital Humanities projects that exemplify those areas, and play and learn with digital tools and do some basic coding. The final weeks of the course will be devoted to collaborative, student-driven projects. No programming or web development experience is necessary, but a willingness to experiment and ‘break things’ is essential to the learning process envisioned in this course.

 

August 25

Intro.: Discuss in person/Zoom

Matthew Kirschenbaum, “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?”

Roopika Risam, “Introduction: the Postcolonial Digital Record” (from New Digital Worlds)

Keywords: Digital Humanities, Postcolonial Studies, Postcolonial Digital Humanities (Risam), “Digital Canonical Humanities” (Risam)

Example in class (in support of Risam’s point about Digital Canonical Humanities). Compare the Charles Chesnutt Archive (http://chesnuttarchive.org) with the Walt Whitman Archive (http://whitmanarchive.org).

Getting our feet wet at home (20-30 minutes): Google Ngram viewer. Set for “English Fiction.” Recommend “Smoothing” set to 0.

https://books.google.com/ngrams 

August 27

Digital/Human

Risam, “Chapter One: The Stakes of Postcolonial Digital Humanities”

Ted Underwood, “Preface: the Curve of the Literary Horizon” from Distant Horizons

Keywords: Quantitative vs. Digital; Distant Reading vs. Close Reading; “Slaughterhouse of Literature”/”Great Unread” 

Getting our feet wet with a Corpus of African American literature:

https://github.com/amardeepmsingh/African-American-Literature-Text-Corpus-1853-1923

September 1

Politics & Terminology in Literary Studies 

M.H. Abrams, “Canon of Literature” from A Glossary of Literary Terms 

Other Keywords Entries (read a selection according to interest): “Black Arts Movement,” “Feminist Criticism,” “Harlem Renaissance,” “New Criticism,” “New Historicism,” “Periods of American Lierature,” “Periods of English Literature,” “Postcolonial Studies,” “Queer Theory” 

  

September 3

Digital Humanities and Literary History

Underwood, Chapter 1, “Do We Understand the Outlines of Literary History?” (From Distant Horizons)

 Franco Moretti, “Graphs,” from Graphs, Maps, Trees (2007. On CourseSite)

Homework: Play with Voyant-Tools. For this exercise, let’s look at a second Text Corpus: Colonial South Asian Literature. 

September 8

Digital Humanities--Canonicity

Amy Earhart, “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon”

https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/read/untitled-88c11800-9446-469b-a3be-3fdb36bfbd1e/section/cf0af04d-73e3-4738-98d9-74c1ae3534e5

Stephanie P. Browner, “Digital Humanities and the Study of Race and Ethnicity”

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/idx/e/etlc/9362034.0001.001/1:5?g=dculture;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1#5.1

Underwood, Chapter 2 “The Life Spans of Genres” (from Distant Horizons)

On your own: New tool to explore: AntConc (downloadable software)

http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc/

September 10

Quantifying the Expanding Canon

Studying Anthologies: Lehigh grad student Adam Heidebrink-Bruno’s work on American modernism. Zoom visit from Adam himself.

Open Syllabus Project: Who is being taught?

Homework: Do test queries on http://opensyllabus.org

African-American authors? Latinx authors? LGBTQ+ authors? Postcolonial authors? How would we quantify the results? How might we visualize them?

September 15

Hands-on project workshop: Playing with data -- either from the Corpora I posted on CourseSite or from other corpora you can find online. 

(If there’s a particular topical corpus -- say, Detective Fiction or Science Fiction -- you’re looking for, you could start by Googling it. But also feel free to ask me.)

I also recommend you read this primer for working with plain text files & getting started with processing those texts to make them useful:

http://www.electrostani.com/2020/08/text-processing-101-digital-humanities.html

September 17

Workshop continued.

Short analysis with data due: September 20 

September 22

Race and the Digital Humanities 1

Kim Gallon, “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities” (2016)

Safiya Umoja Noble, “Towards a Critical Black Digital Humanities” (2019)

https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/read/untitled-f2acf72c-a469-49d8-be35-67f9ac1e3a60/section/5aafe7fe-db7e-4ec1-935f-09d8028a2687#ch02

September 24

Race and the Digital Humanities 2: Algorithms of Oppression

Noble, Safiya Umoja. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. NYU Press, 2018, doi: 10.2307/j.ctt1pwt9w5.

Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: Introduction
Noble, Algorithms of Oppression Chapter 1 

Risam, “What Passes for Human?” (2019) (Bringing the kinds of questions Noble asks to AI, Facial recognition, robotics)

https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/read/untitled-4e08b137-aec5-49a4-83c0-38258425f145/section/34d51cdb-2a89-4e4b-9762-bf6461cf0bb7#ch03

 

September 29

Slavery and the Archive 1

Jessica Marie Johnson, “Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads” (2017) (CourseSite)

Gabrielle Foreman, “Writing About ‘Slavery’? This Might Help” (brief document with tips and dos & don’ts)

https://naacpculpeper.org/resources/writing-about-slavery-this-might-help/

Colored Conventions Project

http://coloredconventions.org

Hands-on work on creating custom maps: Possibly: using Named Entity Recognition to get Names and Maps from our African American Literature Corpus. 

October 1

Slavery and the Archive 2: Jamaica

Vincent Brown, “A Slave Revolt in Jamaica”

http://revolt.axismaps.com

Readings from Vincent Brown, Tacky’s Revolt (2020): “Prologue,” “Chapter 2: The Jamaica Garrison,” “Chapter 4: Tacky’s Revolt” 

October 6

Slavery and the Archive 3:

Getting our feet with a newspaper archive. African American Newspapers Series 1: 1827-1998. Need to log in through Lehigh’s library website using your Lehigh account credentials.

https://asa.lib.lehigh.edu/Record/1332066

https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.lib.lehigh.edu/apps/readex/welcome?p=EANAAA

Try some sample queries, perhaps related to abolition, emancipation, reconstruction. 

Could also return to the African American authors from our African American Text Corpus. Passing? Liberia? Lynching? Interracial romance/mixed-race experiences? African American genre fiction (i.e., detective fiction, science fiction, Gothic, etc.)? Other topics of interest?

October 8

Digital Archives, Editions, Collections

Earhart, “The Era of the Archive” (Traces of the Old, Uses of the New, Chapter 2). Keywords: New Historicism; Digital Archive vs. Digital Edition

Kenneth M. Price, “Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What's in a Name?”

Risam, Chapter 2 of New Digital Worlds. “Colonial Violence and the Postcolonial Digital Archive” 

 

October 13

Analog Archives: What Are Archives For?

Terry Cook, “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms” (2013) 

Kate Thiemer, “Archives in Context and As Context” (2013)

http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-2/archives-in-context-and-as-context-by-kate-theimer/

(An analog archivist questions the way Digital Humanities scholars use the word “archive”; she posits “collection” might be more appropriate)

 

October 15

Digital Editions: Hands-on/Collaborative/Student-driven

Workshop for Second Project: Constructing a Basic Digital Edition in Scalar. Hands-on Introduction to the Scalar platform & Lehigh's Instance of Scalar.

https://scalar.lehigh.edu

Possible sources for producing Digital Editions/Collections in Scalar: African American Text Corpus, Colonial South Asian Literature

October 20

Students work collaboratively on building a Digital Edition of a text in Scalar, with introductory essay, notes, other relevant materials. More info. TBA.

Project Due Sunday October 25.

October 22

Digital Media Studies 1: Twitter -- Hashtag Activism

Jackson, Sarah J, Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles. #Hashtag Activism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice, 2020. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/hashtagactivism.

#Hashtag Activism, Introduction, “Making Race and Gender Politics on Twitter”

#Hashtag Activism, Chapter 5: “From Ferguson to #FalconHeights: The Networked Case for Black Lives”

October 27

Digital Media Studies 2: Twitter; Scraping

Marcia Chatelain, “Is Twitter Any Place for a [Black Academic] Lady?” [focus on “#FergusonSyllabus and academic expectations/culture] (2019)

https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/read/untitled-4e08b137-aec5-49a4-83c0-38258425f145/section/514735f3-8da4-4ac7-861a-994b930e1080#ch11

Hands-on work: Scraping hashtags on Twitter. Possibly using Python (will demonstrate how to do this)

October 29

Digital Media Studies 3: Instagram

Hands-on work: Scraping hashtags, keywords, authors on Instagram:

https://my.apify.com/actors/shu8hvrXbJbY3Eb9W

November 3

Digital Media Studies 4: Instagram -- InstaPoetry.

 Lili Paquet, “Selfie Help: The Multimodal Appeal of Instagram Poetry” (2019) (CourseSite)

Instapoets: Rupi Kaur, others

Possibly: Analyzing our scraped data using Sentiment Analysis:

http://www.electrostani.com/2015/10/syuzhet-sentiment-analysis-of-novels.html 

http://www.electrostani.com/2016/06/group-project-sentiment-analysis-of.html

November 5

Intersectional Data Feminism 1

Lauren Klein and Catherine D’Ignazio, Data Feminism:
Introduction: “Why Data Science Needs Feminism”
Chapter 1: “The Power Chapter”

November 10

Intersectional Data Feminism 2

Klein and D’Ignazio, Data Feminism:
Chapter 3: “On Rational, Scientific, Objective Viewpoints from Mythical, Imaginary, Impossible Standpoints”
Chapter 4: “What Gets Counted Counts”
Hands-on work: To be announced

November 12

Intersectional Data Feminism 3

Ted Underwood, Chapter 4 of Distant Horizons: “Metamorphoses of Gender” 

Hands-on work: Can we replicate some of Underwood’s analyses? Also, can we apply some of this to the African American Literature Text Corpus or the Colonial South Asian Literature Corpus? Do texts by black and brown writers engage with gender the same way? Are there variations in the pattern? 

November 17

Digital Humanities Pedagogy

Roopika Risam, New Digital Worlds. Chapter 4.

Explore some of the tools Risam mentions. 

November 19

Digital Humanities Pedagogy

Stefan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Teaching Computer-Assisted Text Analysis: Approaches to Learning New Methodologies” (from Digital Humanities Pedagogy)

Olin Bjork, “Digital Humanities and the First-Year Writing Course” (from Digital Humanities Pedagogy)

November 24-26

Thanksgiving Week (nothing scheduled)

December 1

(Fully Remote) Workshop: Final projects

December 3

(Fully Remote) Workshop: Final projects + Semester Wrap-up