Analyzing #Charlestonsyllabus as a DH Project

I am introducing the project of #Charlestonsyllabus, a communal reading and sharing project born out of the egregious events in Charleston, SC, that reflected the deep-seated anti-Blackness and racism in today’s America. As the name suggests, this is a reading list with a certain structure and political aim. But different from most other academic syllabus, this one is not put together by any one single-handedly. The project was first conceptualized by Dr. Chad Williams, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. Then, it became reality through the trending twitter tag, #Charlestonsyllabus, and the careful selection and gathering of materials by two AAIHS bloggers.


As we can see from the reading list, the aim of the project is to challenge racial inequalities, hierarchies, and oppression by transforming the terrain of thinking through social-justice oriented critical thoughts. More specifically, following Johanna Drucker’s framework of analysis, I further break down the project into three parts–

First, the assets/source of the project, that is, the raw data, is the existing pool of interdisciplinary literature, both scholarly and journalistic, on the matter of race, racism, and Blackness in the history and contemporary U.S, with a special focus on South Carolina.

Second, the  process or service is completed by a few scholars of African American Studies, librarians, as well as twitter users who suggested relevant readings from the pool of existing literature that would transform our social realities of racism and anti-Blackness.

Finally, the presentation/display provided on the AAIHS website is fairly simple in comparison to other DH projects, but highly functional and easy to access considering that ultimately, the aim of this project is to point people to different resources. What the service entails, as shown in the second screen capture above, is a list of reading broken down by themes and historical periods that has hyperlinks embedded within, pointing the reader to various purchasing, reading, and library sites. In addition, the service also includes a list of responses to the reading list at the very bottom as an interactive extension of the project.

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