Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The New Digital Humanities with Tawnya Ravy

"Salman Rushdie continues to be 
a culturally relevant author 
whose literary representations, political opinions, and celebrity status shape our understanding of literature, global politics,
and South Asian culture"

The Salman Rushdie Archive


In honor of reaching 100,000 readers

I am hosting a digital humanities forum
showcasing the work of other fantastic young DH scholars
who inform and inspire me with their innovative projects.


For me, working in the digital humanities began as a way to trace my scholarship in real-time and evolved into an immensely rewarding, collaborative effort that not only improved my research and writing, but also pulled me away from the isolation I had experienced as a young graduate student. As a result of my work with the digital humanities, I joined the growing ranks of public scholars who realize the benefit of working outside the traditional scholarly publication route in order to respond to contemporary research while still new, present ideas to other scholars while still fresh, and reach audiences not only outside of their specific areas of expertise, but also outside of their disciplines and the academy itself. In my experience this results in better scholarship inspired by a diverse body of research methods and chips away at the impenetrability of scholarly work that serves only to reinforce specific types of systemic privilege. 

My project is the Salman Rushdie Archive which is a digital archive designed to collect and curate information on the well-known, postcolonial author Salman Rushdie. Initially I just wanted a platform to collect links and information to help me organize the stream of data that results from working on a living author. Eventually I added a blog component which I used to tease out some of my analysis of Rushdie’s celebrity author status. I have also determined that one of my priorities is to find ways to archive Rushdie’s social media feeds (primarily Twitter and Facebook) for myself and other Rushdie scholars. Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of this project has been connecting with other Rushdie scholars around the world. I correspond mainly with graduate students working on Rushdie, but I know others consult my site as well based on the analytics, published citations, and informal conference conversations. I look forward to expanding my project to include other contemporary, postcolonial authors. 


Embracing the digital humanities and public scholarship as a graduate student has enabled me to overcome two rather common obstacles to being successful in graduate school: isolation and relevance. Too often young scholars seeking to emulate their eminent faculty take a lone-wolf approach to their scholarly work, and that sense of solitariness becomes overwhelming and gives way to self-defeating attitudes about the potential pointlessness of one’s work. For young humanities scholars who are still locating their critical voices, navigating the unique world of academe, and becoming colleagues instead of students, the digital humanities and public scholarship offers a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth. 

In many ways, M.W. Bychowski’s work at captures my main motivation for doing digital humanities: sharing and collaboration. Bychowski is incredibly generous with her research and her data which in an often cut-throat academic world is all the more amazing. This transparency not only establishes her as a rigorous, thoughtful academic, but also undermines traditional models of work production (based on a long history of promoting scholars from a specific class, race, and gender) which tends to privilege competition over collaboration. Instead of jealously guarding our data and restricting access to our research, we see the immense value in transforming our scholarly practices to consider carefully the politics of inclusion, transparency, and cooperation.


Tawnya Ravy is a Ph. D candidate at the George Washington University and is currently writing her dissertation. Her scholarly interests include postcolonial theory, South Asian literature, Diaspora, and British postmodernism. She has presented papers on Rushdie’s work at local and international conferences including “Bordering: Similarity and Almost Being in Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence” and “Experiencing Myth in Postmodern Culture: The Truth of Untruth in Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life.”

Follow her on Twitter (@LitAmbitions)


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