Mediating Online Content and Countering Assumptions: An Exemplary Site

During Laura Leibman’s session on Jewish identity and the digital humanities, we discussed the potential of information technology, online content, and applications to either perpetuate or counter ideas about racial categories. When viewing films or using online archives, it is easy to assume that our students have context that is evident to us, when in fact they have not absorbed this context. In this post, I direct other participants to a site that is a promising example of how to address this issue. I mention the site because, this morning, several THATCamp participants (the majority of whom are scholars of Jewish studies) expressed interest in questions of memory, voice, and racial identity. As an English literature scholar who also works on Caribbean literature, I confront similar challenges of bringing together piecemeal information and “lost” voices, since West Indian and colonial American slaves’ “autobiographical” accounts were often mediated by white editors. Recently, I was impressed by the project of Cassandra Pybus, a professor of history at the University of Sydney. Her Web site is It is an “online repository” for fragmentary items of information concerning individual black slaves who supported the British forces during the Revolutionary era and were liberated and evacuated in 1783. In her “About” section, she includes a column in which she explains “How Assumptions Are Made.” It enumerates different assumptions that researchers use in tracing kin relationships among slaves for whom genealogical information is limited or compromised. Using similar interfaces and categories, we can provide context for our students and general visitors to our online sites and content.

The site is:

If anyone would like further information on this, my e-mail address is

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About nmwright

I study the 18th-century British novel