Me at the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL

Boozhoo! My name is Michael Albani, and I am excited to be joining the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative as a graduate fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year. I am a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Michigan State University where I am currently entering my fifth year. My dissertation, tentatively titled “Racializing Indigenous Society: Native Americans, Euro-Americans, and the Struggle for Authority in the Great Lakes Borderlands, 1763-1888,” centers on Anishinaabe women and their children of mixed ancestry from Michilimackinac. During the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, this area situated between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas served as a nexus for the Great Lakes fur trade where Euro-Americans and American Indians both intermingled and grappled for dominance. Broadly speaking, my work analyzes how the enduring presence of Anishinaabe women in peripheries like Michilimackinac affected nineteenth-century state formation efforts on both sides of the border between the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, it examines how people of mixed descent retained authority throughout the Great Lakes region as Euro-Americans imposed new racial classifications upon them. This year, I look forward to learning more about digital methods and computational research approaches to bolster my research.

I first became acquainted with digital humanities as an MA student at Loyola University Chicago. There, I spent two years coordinating the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project, a visual archive of LUC’s first library books that introduced me to the processes of generating metadata and digital curation. Shortly after moving to East Lansing, I started producing and cohosting Sects Ed, a religious history podcast analyzing unorthodox faiths around the world. I also helped design Skin Deep with former CHI Grad Fellows Jen Andrella and Ramya Swayamprakash, a website that published scholarship by historians engaging with contemporary issues surrounding immigration, race, and identity.

Throughout the coming months, I hope you will be intrigued as you watch my project for the fellowship take shape. Right now, I am especially interested in textual analysis, and methods such as digital curation, text mining, and topic modeling. The complex processes of U.S. and Canadian state formation generated a multitude of textual sources including treaties, documentation of treaty negotiations, and census records. Some of these documents have entered the public domain and are available online while I have been transcribing others during my archival research. I look forward to learning about compelling new ways to analyze this data that could illuminate intersections between state formation and Euro-American efforts to codify both Indigenous peoples and people of mixed ancestry as racialized “others.” Furthermore, I hope to learn how best to accessibly and responsibly present elements of my research to broader audiences, especially modern Anishinaabe communities whose cultural heritage I am exploring.

To learn more about my work, please visit my website, and follow me on Twitter @MJJAlbani.