Making Jews in the Digital Humanities

I would like to propose a session in which THATCampers could discuss the relationship between Jewish Studies and recent debates about race and ethnicity in digital humanities.  I am particularly interested in talking about how certain platforms (digital archives, gaming, blogs, online genealogy sites, social media?) present either opportunities or pitfalls for thinking about the social construction of Jewishness.

On the positive side, I am curious about how digital humanities offers opportunities to discuss the boundaries of our discipline and who gets included and excluded from the rubric of “Jewish Studies.”  I mainly work, for example, on the Sephardic Diaspora in the Americas, so I tend to think about how scholarship can either reify or reject mythical views of authenticity of a “pure” Jewishness that is thought to have existed before the Sephardic displacement into the Americas or in medieval Iberia prior to forced conversions.  How might software (such as Omeka) that encourages visitor participation, for example, allow people visiting online archives to contest the definitions of either “Jews” or “Jewishness” in meaningful ways?  Likewise, how can we use online gaming to help raise questions about identity?  (Here I am thinking about games like Trading Races and AllLookSame.)  Does the digital world offer new ways to challenge students to think about the history of how Jews created their identities in relationship to and in dialogue with others?

I’d also like to talk about potential pitfalls of the digital world with respect to identity making.  To what extent extent are “charged assumptions” about race, ethnicity, or Jewishness replicated in either the digital world through systems, codes, or tools (See Koh Slide 31)?  How does digitizing Jews relate to larger debates about Race in the Digital Humanities and what it means to “digitize” race or ethnicity?

Categories: Archives, Collaboration, Games, Museums, Session Proposals, Session: Talk, Uncategorized |

About Laura Leibman

My area of research is primarily on Sephardic Jews in the American colonies, with an emphasis on the Caribbean. I work both with texts and material culture, and I have several online databases. The Jewish Atlantic World Database, for example, is a collection of images related to early American Jewish material culture. Much of my digital humanities work focuses on how digital media can allow us to create a dynamic, multimedia environment for interdisciplinary scholarship, though I also use my online databases as a platform for doing seriation studies. The classes I teach often involve a digital humanities component. I am eager to learn more about what technologies people are using and what they are doing with them.

2 Responses to Making Jews in the Digital Humanities

  1. kkoltunf says:

    I’m really looking forward to this kind of discussion because we are just finishing up a session on race and Judaism, and so I find your questions so relevant to the kind of discussions occurring in my class. And some of my students are using Omeka for their final projects, so I would like to learn more about how you use this as well. Great stuff!

  2. Excellent! In case it is useful for anyone, I talk about some of the above issues on the blog I put together for the Digital Workshop session on Monday. Still a work in progress.

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