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May 7, 2015

Zulus on Display

May 7, 2015 | By | No Comments

farinifriendlyzulus

I am very excited to announce the launch of Zulus on Display!

When I first returned to CHI this year, I planned to expand my project from the 2013-2014 fellowship, Imbiza: A Digital Repository of the 2010 World Cup (you can read more about that project here and here).  One of the main parts of Imbiza that I was hoping to expand upon was the geospatial visualizations that I built for version 1.0 that I had left out in the interest of time.  This, however, presented me with a problem that I had been dealing with since I first conceptualized Imbiza in late 2013.  Soccer is not the focus of my research.  I am a big soccer fan and I enjoy reading, writing, and teaching about the subject, when it comes right down to it, it’s a very strong side interest.  I am a historian of Zulu life and culture, especially the construction of and deployment of Zulu masculinity as an international trope.  While, in a way, this is connected to a project on soccer, during the course of Imbiza I had found myself doing a lot of work that took time away from my personal research.  So embarking on another year-long project delving with an academic interest, but not my main research focus was something that I was hesitant to approach.

I spoke with Ethan Watrall, our CHI director, about this earlier this year and he encouraged me to pursue a project that was more in tune with my research; in short, he told me that I should do a project that would help me prepare for my dissertation, instead of distracting me from it.  That’s when I thought about this project.  Since the mid-1850s, Europeans and Americans have been seemingly obsessed with what Jabulani Sithole has referred to using the idiom ubuZulu bethu (literally, “our Zuluness.”  But their fascination was not with “our Zuluness” but rather with “their” Zuluness, the Zulu ethnicity that could be packaged, displayed, and sold for a profit.  This project explores instances of Zulus and Zuluness being used as entertainment, as a commodity to be sold for a profit.  But this project also shows that this was not a one-way exchange, but rather a process that involved negotiation and adaptation by a variety of groups for a variety of different reasons.

Zulus on Display was built using a Twitter Boostrap framework, with a modified theme from Start Boostrap.  The map was built usingStoryMapJS.  Incorporating open access historical photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, and videos, this geospatial timeline allows for an exploration of the temporal and spatial components of this historical phenomenon while also providing a forum to explore broader themes embodied in the displaying of “Zulu” bodies as entertainment.  All of the photos and videos included in the map are openly available from various insitutions that can be linked from the citations under each photo.  You can access all of the files used to build this site on Github.  Below you can watch a presentation on this project that I presented at a LOCUS talk at Michigan State University in February 2015.

Image source: Royal Aquarium, Westminster. Farini’s Friendly Zulus, c. 1879 British Library.

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October 7, 2014

Digital Ethics

October 7, 2014 | By | One Comment

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the next phase of my digital scholarship.  Currently, I am working on revamping Imbiza (from 1.0 to 2.0) and helping test the beta-version of the KORA plugin.  But, as I’ve discussed previously on my personal blog, some people might be surprised to discover that South African football is not the focus of my own personal research, although it features prominently in my digital presence:  as, obviously, the focus of Imbiza, the subject of my blogs for Football Is Coming Home, and the specialty of my doctoral adviser, Peter Alegi.  But I’ve been seriously considering lately (maybe) slowly introducing my dissertation research (which I most commonly liken to a helpless child) into my digital presence and scholarship.

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September 11, 2014

Ngiyabuya! (I Am Returning!)

September 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

I’m very excited (much more excited than the gentleman to the left!) to be returning to CHI for the 2014-2015 academic year.  I learned so much last year, both in terms of technical ability and conceptually in terms of the importance of digital cultural preservation, and I am really honored to get the chance to further expand that knowledge and get to collaborate with a whole new group of fellows.  Returning to the program also allows me the chance to continue developing my project.

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May 5, 2014

Imbiza 1.0: It’s Just the Beginning!

May 5, 2014 | By | No Comments

Ke nako!  Imbiza 1.0: A Digital Repository of the 2010 World Cup is now live and can be found at imbiza.matrix.msu.edu!

Imbiza is a digital repository of over 500 photos and videos related to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  I have compiled materials for nearly every day of the tournament, and sources that are representative of all but two of the nations that competed in 2010.  The project also contains some thematic galleries, which arrange some of these photos according to certain aspects of the tournament that I hope to extrapolate on in future versions of the project (more on this below).

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April 13, 2014

An Imbiza Update

April 13, 2014 | By | One Comment

As the May 2nd launch date approaches, I find myself surprised at how much this project has changed (and changed again, then changed again) since the original idea emerged in an October 2013 Session of the Football Scholars Forum.  Originally, I planned on a project that focused solely on the stadiums and fan parks, but now I am working on a project that will encompass the entire tournament; not only the stadiums and fan parks, but also the fans, the sounds, the writings, and, most importantly, the football. Read More

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January 6, 2014

Imbiza: A Digital Repository of the 2010 World Cup

January 6, 2014 | By | One Comment

ZuluImbizaIn Zulu culture, an imbiza is a large ceramic pot used for brewing utshwala (sorghum beer). This vessel enables the fermentation of a fluid that facilitates communication with the amadlozi (ancestors) and lubricates social interactions. Taking my cue from this vernacular technology, I am developing Imbiza: A Digital Repository of 2010 World Cup Stadiums and Fan Parks—an open access collection of primary sources for brewing ideas and encouraging public dialogue about this defining event in South Africa after apartheid.

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November 26, 2013

African Studies in the Digital Age

November 26, 2013 | By | One Comment

This past weekend, I attended the 56th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a fantastic event, bringing together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, from history and anthropology to public health and geography. In addition to sharing their research, scholars also reflected on future trajectories of African Studies. Aside from particular research angles that need to be explored, numerous scholars commented on the need for greater utilization of digital humanities in the study of Africa.

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October 7, 2013

Digital Collaboration

October 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

One of the difficulties of being a historian of South Africa living in East Lansing (or really being a historian of any foreign place) is that, for most of the year, I am over 8,000 miles away from my subject matter. This is not to say that I do not have valuable resources at my disposal here; thankfully, I do have access to an impressive number of archival materials thanks to the stellar collections available through the MSU Library and MATRIX. However, for someone who centers their work on the testimonies and perspectives of South Africans, this distance becomes difficult. Recently, however, I have begun to consider the potential of digital platforms (particularly blogging and social media) to bridge this gap.

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September 11, 2013

CHI Fellow Introduction: Liz Timbs

September 11, 2013 | By | No Comments

My name is Liz Timbs. I am a doctoral candidate in African History here at Michigan State University. I also hold a Master’s in Comparative World History from George Mason University. In my graduate education, I have had the opportunity to work at two institutions which have demonstrated dedication to the application of digital methods to the study of history, both at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and MATRIX at Michigan State University.  These experiences have shown me the potential of utilizing digital methods within the historical profession, in terms of both research and pedagogy.

My research focuses on the history of health and healing in South Africa, particularly the nation’s experience with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  My hope is to, during the course of my dissertation research, begin accumulating enough material to produce a digital archive of the experiences of Zulu-speaking South Africans with this devastating illness. In a similar vein, I hope to produce a documentary on the history of the epidemic, stretching back into the 1980s when the illness first appeared among homosexual men to the era of AIDS denialism and into the present day. Though these projects will probably not come to fruition until further down the line, I am hoping that part of my work as a CHI Fellow can lay the groundwork for these future endeavors.

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