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African Studies in the Digital Age

November 10-18, 2014  |  All events will be in Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad,105 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan unless noted.

In the digital age, it is hard to see how locality still matters. Digital media radically attenuate geographical distance, opening up forms of community that transcend solidarities based on language, culture, and place. It has been hard, therefore, for scholars of African Studies (or of any other area-studies speciality) to contribute to the growing enterprise of the “digital humanities.” The borderless terrain of digital media seems to leave little space for the bordered knowledge of area studies, for the vernacular, for heritage, and for other productions of culture rooted in place and time. And yet: seen as a technology, digital media necessarily entails a hierarchy of access. The mastery of digital forms involves expert knowledge; there are, necessarily, margins where participation is foreclosed. Moreover, there are questions to be asked about the terms of exchange involved in the digital bargain. Once rendered in digital form, cultural property that once belonged to museums, archives, universities, and governments in Africa can be spirited across borders and made available to outsiders. Digitization–of music, of archives, of libraries–is a form of expropriation. It must occasion questions about ownership, copyright, and interest.

The workshop is free and open to the public.  Registration is required.



MONDAY, 11/10

9 am  – Opening Session
Kelly Askew, Anthropology, Afroamerican Studies, African Studies Center, U-M
Daniel Herwitz, Comparative Literature, U-M
Derek Peterson, History, Afroamerican Studies, U-M

9:30 am – Seminar with Isabel Hofmeyr

1 pm – Tour of the Digital Media Commons

4 pm – Mandela's Copyright: Intellectual Property and the Postcolonial World
Isabel Hofmeyr, African Literature, University of the Witwatersrand

TUESDAY, 11/11

10 am – The Digital Humanities: A Short Introduction
Sidonie Smith, Institute of the Humanities, University of Michigan
Paul Conway, School of Information, University of Michigan

1:30 pm – Whither the Archive?
Keith Breckenridge, University of the Witwatersrand - “The Aluka Project
Michele Pickover,  University of the Witwatersrand - “Digitization of the Wits Historical Papers

4 pm – “The Political Virtues of the Imperial Archive: Burke, Milner and the Scandal of Empire”
Venue: 4701 Haven Hall
Keith Breckenridge, University of the Witswatersrand


Venue: Rackham Amphitheater

HathiTrust at Michigan: A Special Briefing for Faculty, Staff and Students

1 pm – Welcome and Introductions
Paul Conway, School of Information, University of Michigan

1:15 pm – Collective Stewardship through HathiTrust Digital Library
Mike Furlough, Executive Director, Hathi Trust
Jeremy York, Associate Director, Hathi Trust

2:15 pm– HathiTrust and the Law
Melissa Levine, Lead Copyright Officer, U-M Library

3:45 pm – HathiTrust and the Future of Scholarship in the Digital Age
Paul Courant, School of Information, Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan


10 am – Public History
Sharon Leon, Public Projects Director, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University

2 pm – Platforms
Dean Rehberger and Peter Alegi, Michigan State University - “MATRIX’s Africa Projects
Derek Peterson, University of Michigan - “Archive Work in Uganda”

FRIDAY, 11/14

10 am – Teaching and Research
Angel Nieves, Co-Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative at Hamilton College
Bruce Janz, Director of the Center for Humanities and Digital Research, University of Central Florida

2 pm – The News
Dinesh Balliah, University of the Witwatersrand - “Digital Work of Journalism at Wits”
Peter Limb, Michigan State University - “African Newspaper Archive

MONDAY, 11/17

10 am – Architecture
Tara McPherson, Cinematic Arts, USC

2 pm – Access, Intellectual Property, and Teaching
Venue: Henderson Room, Michigan League

Martha Jones, University of Michigan - “Law in Slavery and Freedom Project
Kelly Askew; Paul Conway; and David Wallace, University of Michigan - “Leo Sarkisian Music Archive
Akosua Adomako Ampofo and Judith Opoku-Boateng, University of Ghana - “Digital Archiving at the Institute of African Studies

TUESDAY, 11/18

4 pm – Publishing In and About Africa
Gillian Berchowitz, Director, Ohio University Press
James Tumusiime, founder and publisher, Fountain Publishers
Alexander Bangirana, Head of Publications and Dissemination, CODESRIA
Charles Watkinson, Director, University of Michigan Press

Organized by the African Studies Center (ASC) at the University of Michigan and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, the seven-day workshop  will open a conversation between African Studies scholars and scholars of the digital humanities. The object is to bring practitioners involved in the nuts-and-bolts of specific digital projects together with scholars working more generally on pedagogy and platforms in the digital domain. The workshop is the second installment of the program “Joining Theory and Empiricism in the Remaking of the African Humanities: A Transcontinental Collaboration,” a five-year interdisciplinary research and teaching partnership between the ASC and WiSER. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program aims to foster and strengthen innovative research in the humanities and closely affiliated fields in the social sciences with the objective of building a transcontinental community of scholars who addresses ambitious theoretical questions that resonate with local, regional, and global experiences.