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john5110

john5110

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December 7, 2018

Rememory

December 7, 2018 | By | No Comments

One of my most salient goals as an academic and a writer, as a person, is perhaps directly related to one of my greatest fears: forgetting home, and thus, losing home. While many of our technologies and actions today reflect globalization and the sharing of ideas, cultural practices, and artifacts, it is often driven by dominant groups in power. For example, in the case of gentrification, neighborhoods and communities often change when those with financial resources and social power enter previously “undesirable” areas. The community often receives a lot more attention and access to quality resources, but the costs include systemic removal—driven by capitalism. When people of a community (are re)move(d), often the cultural practices and spaces of a community also (are re)move(d).

Thus, my project is about rememory of self and s/place. We’re socialized through various institutions as well as our communities; however, when Western schooling works as a tool for assimilation and community is being attacked, sustaining cultural practices and embodied knowledges can be quite difficult. My interests somehow guided me organically to my proposed project. I was confused with out to balance the theoretical with the practice–with the importance of digital humanities being in conversation with questions of access. What would it mean to create something that was accessible, and more than that, reflected my pedagogical orientations in a way that continued to challenge me.

As in most situations when I am perplexed and overwhelmed, I called my mother. When I told her about my project, centered on mapping sites of educational memory in New Orleans, her first response was, “but no one has anything left.” She was alluding to Hurricane Katrina and the loss of our peoples (through passing and removal) and artifacts. In our own home, we loss not only loved ones, but many of our physical artifacts. For my mother who archived joy, sadness, about community, this was particularly difficult. Now, many New Orleanians approach their own loss with reluctant acceptance. The problem, she meant, was, “That’s going to be difficult. Who would you ask? What could they bring?”

While this may seem unimportant for some, for many, material cultural artifacts appear divorced from the people. This is often an ideology that justifies stolen cultural memory and the lack of willingness to return. Take Tarita Alarcón Rapu, the governor of Easter Island, and the indigenous Rapanui people who are asking the British Museum to return Hoa Hakananai’a (“lost or stolen friend”), ancient sculpture featuring the Rapa Nui’s famed stone faces. The British Museum has displayed it in London for the past 150 years. The U.K.’s Royal Navy stole it from the indigenous Rapanui people in 1868. What the delegation who traveled to London want to get across, is that Hoa Hakananai’a is not simply a rock, a statue. As Anakena Manutomatoma told The Guardian, “We want the museum to understand that the moai are our family, not just rocks. For us [the statue] is a brother; but for them it is a souvenir or an attraction,” (as cited by Herreria, 2018).

While I knew many of the personal cultural artifacts would be unavailable, I considered visiting archives and knew that I would have to make more of an effort to reach out to New Orleanians. Two days later, my mother called to say, “I got a few people you can talk to. They’re excited. You’re going to get a lot of stories.” While the artifacts I am in search for are not as sacred as Hoa Hakananai’a, these memories occurred in sacred s/places. For me, this was the most important aspect of the work. It’s bringing attention to what people consider is not sacred, to what some believe is forgotten.

I take this work up while drawing upon various scholars, but an important one is Leigh Patel (2015) who argues that settler colonialism works to replace and erase Native peoples. Erasing the histories of People of Color is a part of this project. Restricting access to one’s histories and ancestors is a part of the settler colonialist project as well. I see digital tools as part of the praxis of decolonization. This leads to another aspect that I continue to cycle back to: what does it mean to share the stories of others and how does the world of the digital humanities play a role in this?

References

Patel, L. (2015). Decolonizing educational research: From ownership to answerability. Routledge.

john5110

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November 2, 2018

Who Writes Our Stories?: Critical Digital Literacies & Youth Activism

November 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

My research interests are transdisciplinary and primarily focus on race, storytelling, and s/place. Working alongside communities of Color, I also consider education and schooling sites to make meaning. There is a lot of amazing work being done that considers Black Studies and digital scholarship, and so below I focus primarily on digital tools in education.

There is conversation concerning “the digital world” in education. Much concerns social media in the classroom or tools such as SMART boards and Google Drive. Even then, terms such as “digital natives”, which I find extremely problematic, evoke a lack of agency because despite youth (broadly with little context) being categorized as knowledge-holders in digital spaces, they’re still spoken of in deficit ways.

Critical conversations around digital tools and technology look not only at how it’s being used, but how technology is used as a tool of power and by whom. Critical theorists also push us to go beyond a surface level integration of digital tools in classrooms and look at digital space and it’s relationship with out s/places, such as schools (Gitlin & Ingerski, 2018). Garcia, Stamatis, and Kelly (2018) consider the ways that “technology mediates student identities” (p. 404) and others (Garcia, Mirra, Morrell,  Martinez, & Scorza, 2015; Mirra, Morrell, & Filipiak, 2018) look more broadly at youth identities, the possibilities in critical digital literacies and youth activism.

I first came to meaningfully think about the possibilities of digital tools, youth, and communities when I came across Youth Radio’s website. I was in a course about Youth Literacies and simultaneously working with youth to understand their literacy practices through Instagram and Snapchat.

“West Side Stories: Gentrification in West Oakland” (Youth Radio Interactive) uses storytelling, art, and interactive mapping to speak to the tensions, layers, and competing interests of gentrification and displacement in West Oakland. Specifically, the mapping features West Oakland’s people, places, and histories.

Not only does this involve transformative work, but it’s work that is authored by whole communities, and features youth participatory action research (YPAR). It challenges preconceptions of who can research the tensions and possibilities of a community and whose voices matter. It offers public access to community members, but also to others so that we may learn.

It pushes me to think of the ways I can work alongside members of my communities to render our cultural artifacts, literacy practices, and the s/places we care about as intentional narratives that reject damage-centeredness (Tuck, 2009).

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September 20, 2018

CHI Fellow: Lauren Elizabeth

September 20, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am Lauren Elizabeth (LJ) and I am a third-year PhD student in the Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education program. My research interests currently include considerations of the cultural epistemologies of New Orleans Black women and youth, Black feminist geographies, storytelling, and English Education. Narratives and stories are essential to my work, if not the work itself, and so I believe that the CHI fellowship will be an invaluable learning experience.

Prior to my time at MSU, I received my Master’s while also working as a Secondary English and Literacy teacher. Working with youth was a constant reminder of digital space and the critical conversations being had already by youth, as well as those that needed to be had by schools.

Because my work is informed by various disciplines and epistemologies, I am not only interested in how I synthesize my project(s), but I am also intrigued by the process, especially the exploration of crafting digital narratives and the ethics involved. This includes critical conversations concerning (at times violent) sociohistorical legacies of archives, mapping, and the representation of particular communities. I also hope to began a deeper exploration of my own pedagogical stances, such as “What is access and whom is it for?” What does it mean to digitize a story—especially when we think of authorship, agency, and ownership? Who are the mappers and cartographers—the meaning-makers of a place? While I do not plan to answer all of these questions or neatly tease them out within the year, I hope that as a CHI graduate fellow of the 2018-2019 cohort, I will be able to attend to these possibilities and tensions.