Dissertation chapter 2

In part out of a compulsive need to share my own work(and because I love process,) I’m including here a draft of my most recent dissertation chapter, warts and all. This is very much a work in progress, as you can see by the detritus/marginalia littering every page. That said, there are a couple of kernels here that I’m really excited about. One is the research process itself. I’m very lucky to be training as a scholar in an era of archival abundance that allows me unparalleled access to archival materials (particularly newspapers and census information.) One of the great preoccupations of many digital humanists is scale and our ability to read new insights into new assemblages of source material. What’s missing I think is an understanding of the ways in which digital resources allow scholars to proceed at the more individual level, albeit in ways and with methods that are still a departure from the usual archival encounter. (I’m writing more on this topic and the methodological implications of what I think of as a paradoxical archival abundance and scarcity, but I’ll leave that subject for now.)

I’m also particularly excited about the possibilities for recovering and interpreting multiscalar movement. I think historians (a profession that grudgingly accepts my reluctant allegiance) have generally undertheorized place and landscape. Even people that I greatly admire (Richard White, William Cronon, etc, etc,) mostly conceive of movement through place on a kind of migratory scale. Here, I’m interested in how we might think through daily gestures, and particularly celebratory movement, as offering a frame for understanding the lives of African Americans in early 20th century Southern cities. I think that allows us to better understand the logic of those larger migrations and the promise inherent in them.

 

Jonkonnu: Processional Culture and Black Mobility in Maggie Washington’s Wilmington

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