Special Issue of Journal of World History: Digital Methods/Empire Histories
This special issue aims to inventory what historians of empire are doing to take advantage of new methods of research and representation in the wake of the revolution in digital technology in the last 25 years. The emphasis is on digital “methods” rather than digital “humanities” per se -- in part because some historians of empire may find themselves aligned as much with the social sciences as the humanities, in part because this issue wants to emphasize tools as instruments for asking, answering and generating historical questions rather than as drivers of research, narratives and arguments about imperial history. Who is using what tools and to what ends? How do methods change, if at all, when historians have access to big data sets, visualization programs, story-mapping software and even coding innovations? What, indeed, counts as a digital tool or method? What kinds of questions about imperial power and resistance can be asked and answered via these new technologies? Which cannot? How have histories of indigenous and colonial peoples in the context of colonial rule been enhanced - or not -- by such tools? What happens to histories of race and class, and sexuality and gender, labor, mobility and the body, when the digital is ascendant? What is the relationship of current work in the digital field to older models and more recent trends, including but not limited to the so-called “new imperial history?”
In short: has empire history taken the digital turn? If not, why not? And if so, what does it mean for inter-disciplinary practices and graduate training in the field for the coming decades? To what extant does digital access map onto histories of uneven development and colonial “underdevelopment”? where does work need to be happening though it is not? Should we all “go digital”?
There is not, to the editor Antoinette Burton’s knowledge, anything like this kind of inventory afoot, though historians of empire are certainly engaged, whether partially or fully, in a range of digital methods for doing their work.[i] Essays dedicated to teaching specifically, or to a mix of research and teaching practices, are welcome as this is may be how scholars engage most directly with digital methods. This issue hopes to gather a group of contributors that is cross-generational and multi-sited across the former spaces of empire. It is anticipated that the essays might cluster in the 1650-1945 period but the aim is for as broad a chronological scope as possible. And given that the venue is the Journal of World History, it is expected that contributors will engage with the limits and possibilities of the global as it pertains to digital research and teaching methods.
Timeline: a title and 300-word abstract by August 31st, 2018. Upon selection, first drafts to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 15, 2019. Antoinette Burton will review the drafts, offer feedback, and once we are set in this first round the essays will go to the Journal of World History editors for review and then out for peer review via the Journal’s regular processes. Word limit: 6000 words including notes.
[i] Contributors should consult Lara Putnam’s essay in the AHR which, though coming out of Latin American history, is an important touchstone for what scholars of empire might be encouraged to think about: https://academic.oup.com/