My research focuses on analyzing, developing, and applying digital and computational methods to study archival rhetorics. I am interested in how the information infrastructure of archives create arguments regarding race, gender, class, and national belonging. More specifically, my scholarship is motivated by questions such as how do the information infrastructure of archives and digital collections create arguments regarding race, gender, class, and national belonging? How can interdisciplinary methods that combine close textual analysis and computational analysis be used to address silences in archival records? How can these computational approaches enhance existing feminist rhetorical historiographic methodologies? And how can scholars imagine new forms of scholarship that leverage the potential of digital modalities to reach wider audiences?
A second and new area of research has emerged from my role as Director of the Digital Literacy and Communication (DLC) Lab. The DLC serves as a hub for innovation in the humanities that focuses on digital literacy, public humanities, digital humanities, and critical game studies. I am particularly interested in how theories of play and gaming can help create critical pedagogies that interrogate race, gender and sexuality as well demonstrate how algorithmic rhetoric shapes narrative structures. Recently, I received a NEH grant to create a Critical Gaming Initiative that centers questions of identity and representation in the development of a Critical Game Studies minor. The cornerstone of the initiative is the Greenlaw Gameroom, UNC’s first game-based classroom
My work can be found in College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Review, and Digital Humanities Quarterly. My full CV can be found here.
Layered Lives: Rhetoric and Representation in the Southern Life History Project
My recently published digital book project, Layered Lives: Race and Representation in the Southern Life History Project (Stanford University Press, 2022), recovers the history of the Southern Life History Project (SLHP) through an interdisciplinary approach that combines close readings of archival material with computational methods that analyze the collection at scale. The Southern Life History Project, a Federal Writers’ Project initiative, put unemployed writers to work during the Great Depression by capturing the stories of everyday people across the Southeast through a new form of social documentation called “life histories.” Layered Lives demonstrates an entangled story about: how the life histories, as a new genre of documentary writing concerned with capturing authenticity, contested existing approaches to producing sociological knowledge and public memory; the role that gender, class, and race played in negotiating these new methods; and how these life histories helped to shape notions of what it meant to be a Southerner during a time of political, social, and economic unrest. Moreover, the digital platform of the text gives readers an opportunity to explore archival materials and data alongside the argument, which opens new forms of reading and interaction in the humanities. This project was made possible by an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Digital Extension Grant and an Institute for the Arts & Humanities at UNC faculty fellowship.
The Invention of Disaster Archives and the Rhetorics of Race, Gender, and Nation
In this book manuscript, I investigate the new methods deployed by many U.S. historical institutions to collect and display materials relating to two contemporary disasters: September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. These new methods, which I define as “disaster archiving,” contain four key elements: (1) immediate collection of physical materials, rather than the previous methodological tenet that called for significant time and distance before initiating collection procedures, (2) preservation of objects in perpetual destruction to maintain their authenticity, (3) a focus on stories rather than historical context, and (4) digital collection of born-digital materials that demonstrate the general population’s thoughts and feelings relating to the event including emails and digital to a scale never before possible. Using new and emerging theories surrounding archival rhetorics, I demonstrate how this new method of collecting ‘history-in-the-making’ reveals the ways in which notions of race, gender, and national belonging become built into archival structures.