Blog Post 1: The Defining of DH

Caribbean Digital represents the constant re-examining that the discipline of digital humanities seems to put itself through. By discussing the advantages and limitations of the field, digital humanists focused on Caribbean studies came together to improve their approach to pedagogy, activism, and archival practice. By attempting this integration/disintegration, DH creates more than the sum of its parts, harnessing juxtaposition, just as is suggested in the Introduction to the Digital Black Atlantic.  

The Early Caribbean Digital Archives gives a multiplicity of voice to Caribbean studies by providing users with access to primary sources which detail the lives of slaves and other subjects of colonialism. The expansion of dialogue is a mainstay of digital humanities, as discussed in The Digital Humanities Moment.

One of Create Caribbean’s focuses is the fostering of a community at Dominica State College and beyond. It’s the beyond that links it so tightly with what we think of as the possibilities of digital humanities. This project also focuses on the “building” aspect of digital humanities—collaboration on projects ranging from archives for local politics to the digital mapping of these localities.

Because I work in politics, the site most interesting to me was Torn Apart / Separados. This site uses visualizations to display and make sense of an immense amount of data, more data than we are used to looking at. Often when the public pressures the government to be more transparent, agencies will dump data onto websites in formats not easily discernable by laypeople. A strength of this project is its ability to create a narrative using a vast amount of data, and the narrative it creates undermines prominent political rhetoric—especially that of the Democratic Party. We know the situation at the border is bad, we know the Democrats “oppose” it, but we also know how money works in politics, often pulling away the rhetorical differences of the two parties and leaving us without defense. What does it mean to be a sanctuary city if our local government is complicit in border camp profiteering? Let’s take a case study of 3 New York City congressional representatives.

New York 10th District

ICE Money Received Since 2014

$2.3 Million

Democratic Rep Jerrold Nadler, in office since 1992

Biggest profiteer is The Corporate Source at $1.2 million

New York 7th District

ICE Money Received Since 2014


Democratic Rep Nadya Velazquez, in office since 1993

Biggest profiteer is the City of New York at $110K

New York 8th District

ICE Money Received Since 2014

$12 Million

Democratic Rep Hakeem Jeffries, in office since 2013

Biggest profiteer is Legal Interpreting Services at $12 million

First off, we must recognize that camps at the border are not a new thing. We had camps during Obama, Bush, and Clinton too. What has changed is the fact that families are being separated now for deterrent purposes. That is, the Trump administration is using this tactic as a way to stop people from coming over our borders. This brings us to a weak point of this project—the data set is not specific to the time in which this policy has been enacted. Opposition to these camps, which have existed for decades, and opposition to practices such as family separations are two distinct policy positions.

Though her district accepted the least money of the three, Rep Nadya Velazquez’s “biggest profiteer” is the most alarming—the City of New York. This is another strength of the project; it highlights in a captivating way the complicity and hypocrisy of our localities and governments. This site could be a valuable tool for organizers wishing to illustrate the vastness of the immigration issue; this chaos is not all caused by Trump, and it is certainly not single-handedly perpetuated by him. The realization that ICE and its camps operate through a vast web of transactions could allow people to hold their local governments and businesses more accountable.

If I were to center an understand of digital humanities around Torn Apart / Separados, I would define DH as a discipline capable of taking large data sets and creating a cogent narrative to influence the outcome of a discussion through a digital medium. Most reporting around family separation rely on affective motivators; writers want readers to feel the weight of the horrible situation. Their stories have told us what is happening; this project illustrates how it is happening. The discipline of DH is well suited to tackle systematic issues that are too big to see. Data is all around us. There is so much of it we are often at a loss. DH gives us the ability to communicate complex and interlocking factors in a visually decodable way. This opens up possibilities.