Digital Translations of Quisqueya

This semester, BCRW will host a plethora of events on transnational feminisms and activism in the Caribbean. 

Here you will find student-generated content on topics ranging from feminism to political economy on the island of Quisqueya, more commonly known as Hispaniola. I hope that they can serve as resources for research or just getting to know more about such topics after attending talks such Caribbean Feminisms on the Page with Edwidge Danticat ‘90 and Victoria Brown, or “Easy Money and Respectable Girls: Neoliberalism and Expectation in the US Virgin Islands” with Tami Navarro.

Digital Translations of Quisqueya

Last semester, I was in Professor Maja Horn and Professor Kaiama Glover’s team-taught course “Translating Hispaniola.” In this course, we explored the ways in which the transnational  histories of Haiti and the Dominican Republic have influenced present times. The course culminated in the creation of a digital humanities project.

Map of Quisqueya

Protesters taking a stand against the Dominican Republic’s mass deportation of Haitian people

For this class, we used a variety of resources from films such as “Des hommes et des dieux” (Of Men and Gods), fictional works by Edwidge Danticat ‘90 and Junot Diaz, legal documents, and news articles, and we were able to delve into an interdisciplinary study of the island of Hispaniola. In addition to the texts and films we worked with, we also attended weekly lectures with scholars such as Ginetta Candelario and Carlos U. Decena, who were also kind enough to direct us in our research.

Some of the topics we explored included the Haitian-Dominican border crises 1937 and 2013, colonial Hispaniola, US imperial interventions and their gendered implications, and literary engagements with dictatorship.

Working in teams of four, we carefully curated and developed timelines on topics such as  sex tourism on Hispaniola, queerness in Hispaniola, dictatorship and economy, and women’s political engagement.

Along the way of completing such research, there were many challenges ranging from language barriers to researching topics that there is very little to no academic scholarship on. Nonetheless, we were able to complete our research and create our timelines, which you can see below:

Queering Hispaniola

Zachary Etheart
Karina Jougla
Salma Nakhlawi
Nichelle Watkins

Sex Tourism on Hispaniola

Erasmia Gorla
Sarah Freedman
Katherina Barguil
Maria Paley

The Economy Under Dictators

Olukemi Adeniji
Danique McGowan
Katherine Castro
Yarimar Gonzalez

Women of Hispaniola: Female Political Engagement

Cinneah El-Amin
Wilda Escarfuller
Nina Anacaona Mency Reign
Elina Rodriguez

-Salma Nakhlawi ‘17

Salma Nakhlawi is an Africana Studies major at Barnard College and a Research Assistant at the BCRW.

“Crunk Feminism: Digital Activism for the Real World” at CLPP

Along with a cohort of BCRW-affiliated students, I had the pleasure of attending Civil Liberties and Public Policy’s 2014 Conference. Since 1981, CLPP has inspired, educated, trained, and supported new activists and leadership to secure reproductive freedom, justice, and sexual rights for all. This year’s conference was packed with workshops on topics ranging from immigrant rights to environmental justice that connected the all-too-important (and often forgotten) dots between reproductive justice and other social issues.

One of the workshops I attended at CLPP was “Crunk Feminism: Digital Activism for the Real World,” hosted by Crunk Feminist Collective members Susana Morris and Eesha Pandit. With an eye for cultural commentary, the CFC aims to articulate a crunk feminist consciousness for people of color who came of age in the Hip Hop Generation. Crunk feminism, as the term suggests, connects crunkness and feminism. ‘Crunk’ here is not just a style of U.S. Southern black rap music or a contraction of “crazy drunk,” but a mode of resistance that finds expression in the rhetorical, cultural, and intellectual practices of a contemporary generation. In the words of CFC’s mission: “what others may call audacious and crazy, we call CRUNK because we are drunk off the heady theory of feminism that proclaims that another world is possible.”

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S&F: Digital Engagemet Panel

This Saturday at the annual Scholar and Feminist Conference, Locations of Learning: Transnational Feminist Practices, speakers will discuss the ways feminist activists, writers, and thinkers around the world engage with issues of globalization, nationalism, gender, sexuality, identity, and power. One prominent type of engagement is through online communities. For the lunchtime Digital Engagement session, we will be asking participants to share with us their experiences, suggestions, and challenges around engaging with these communities.In preparation for the conversation we’d like to have around this issue, we’ll highlight some of the work being done by our conference speakers, including Tamura Lomax from The Feminist Wire, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh from Zanan TV, photographer and activist Zanele Muholi, Maria-Belen Ordonez from FemTechNet, and Laura Hale from the WikiWomen’s Collaborative.

The Feminist Wire (TFW) seeks to critique “anti-feminist, racist, and imperialist politics pervasive in all forms and spaces of private and public lives of individuals globally,” especially those that perpetuate structural violence. TFW creates an alternative blogging space online for intersectional and international perspectives on politics, culture, sports, religion, health, and many other interconnected topics. They have a diverse group of managing, associate, and contributing editors, and accept submissions from the public. TFW also uses social media to circulate their articles and call for submissions, which increases their audience and contributor pool and may help reach those outside of purely academic or activist circles. The Feminist Wire is published completely in English and is U.S.-based which may create challenges for organizing transnationally, but these challenges no doubt inspire creative solutions. Some of their pieces in transnational feminism include celebrating the work of feminists such as Farah Tanis and Chandra Mohanty, and discussing the geopolitics of Beyoncé’s Black feminism. Tamura Lomax is the co-founder of The Feminist Wire as well as a professor and author.

In a metaphorically apt turn of events, Zanan TV was launched at Zuccotti Park in the space created by Occupy Wall Street, with the intention of creating a similar alternative space online, one that would be, as Director Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh put it, “the vanguard of the women’s movement in Iran.” It is part of a history of online spaces created by the Iranian women’s movement, and seeks to provide an online space for feminist discourse and alliance formation between activists organizing around seemingly different goals. Zanan TV accomplishes these objectives through the use of video journalism with on-air and on-demand programs including documentaries, analysis, and news coverage. Zanan TV journalists are activists in various social movements, including the women’s movement. They offer websites in both English and Farsi, and have covered topics such as grassroots activism in Nepal, Iranian female musicians, and women in film internationally.

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The Façade of Unleakable Media – Reflections on “Habitual New Media: Exposing Empowerment”

A few weeks ago, I attended Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s lecture, “Habitual New Media: Exposing Empowerment.” Her analysis of “new media as leak” and the culture surrounding new media is thought provoking and has truly broad potential. She examines the treatment of machines and new media as secure, and the human hurt that emerges when the effects of the natural habits of machines (leaking information) are blamed on human error.

When Chun refers to “new media as leak,” she asserts that in order for a network to function, it must leak information. Leaking is not accidental among, between, within our machines, nor is it in any way a failure on their part. It is, in fact, central to their success. Chun discussed the ways in which our machines are created in the social imagination as “deceptively protective,” in how our (techno-political?) society has constructed a culture of safety, security, and secrecy around our machines (i.e. that we use the machines, they do not “use” us or betray our information: they were created by us, for us, and under our strict control), when, in reality, we have never been in control of our machines. Cue horror-film music (or, maybe that’s just me).

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun: Habitual New Media from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.

What was so interesting to me about this lecture was that both the truth of our machines and media (that they leak) and the culture surrounding them (that they are necessarily secure) seems intuitive, even when they contradict one another. A network, be it of people, businesses, or machines, must constantly be sharing information among members, preferably at a high speed, in order for it to grow and sustain itself. A network needs to be connected, it needs to make connections, and it needs to send the information that’s held within it without it. This makes sense.

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Muslim Women, Activism, and New Media in Kenya

As a college sophomore and member of technology-educated Generation Y, I tend to believe myself worthy of the title “tech-savvy.” I imagine, in true Millennial style, that I have a pretty strong grasp on media technologies and their potential. Ousseina Alidou‘s conversation on Muslim Women, Activism, and the New Media in Kenya on November 14, brought me down a notch. I understood the ways in which our (American or Western) thoughts could use social media to reach and aide activists on a global scale, but I had spent much less thought on the ways in which social media could not only provide a pre-made discourse for global voices, but also allow them to construct their own. In her lecture and conversation on the topic, Dr. Alidou introduced the role of social media in the development of an alternative modern discourse for the self-representation of Muslim women within both secular and Islamic spheres.

Four young women gathered around a laptop

Of course social media facilitates discourse, that’s what it was created for, after all. We needn’t look very far to see social media’s organizing potential. Only look back to the eruption of the Arab Spring revolutions, and the demonstrations and protests organized through tweets and Facebook posts. Or heck, how many events were you invited to today on Facebook? On small and large scales, social media provides powerful tools to be reckoned with.

Alidou explained that Muslim women tend to bear the brunt of the generally negative imagery of Sub-Saharan Africa. You know the stereotype–the “oppressed Muslim woman,” reduced to only her religion and her sex. Alidou described how African Muslim women can undo this stereotyping by producing an alternative self-representation in various domains, creating “an alternative vision of their reality” that articulates their own stand on their status within their religious and secular communities. Social media and other media technologies provide Muslim women of that silenced part of Africa, the Sub-Saharan region, a voice that may speak louder than the existing victimizing and state-controlled discourses. Rather than executing humanitarian activism from within a defined “legitimate”–and often limiting–mold, Muslim women can forge their own activism.

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Knowledge, Activism and the Online Community

After recently attending the BCRW lecture, “Digital Community Formation,” I was struck by a connection between this talk and one held by BCRW last year, “Using Knowledge, Advancing Activism.” As a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies major, and someone about to graduate and in the midst of figuring out how to turn this academic perspective into a profession, both panels resonated with me in how they addressed feminist knowledge (be it academic or otherwise) as a tool for activism. Moderated by Laura Flanders, “Using Knowledge, Advancing Activism” occurred last September, with Rinku Sen, Jamia Wilson, and Dean Spade. The panel addressed the questions of what counts as knowledge, whose knowledge matters, and how we can bridge academic knowledge with activism. The panelists each presented their organizations as possible examples of how to answer such questions. Sen’s work at the Applied Research Center, for example, exemplifies how racial justice knowledge can be mobilized through extensive research, community organizing, journalism ( and networking. Wilson’s organization, The Women’s Media Center, takes a different approach by training girls and women to be “media savvy” in order to increase women’s visibility in the media. Finally, Spade discussed how the Sylvia Rivera Law Project helps support trans people of color and low-income trans people to access services and protection from violence where law fails to do so. All of these organizations combine some sort of academic and professional expertise (law, media, feminist studies) with equally valid knowledge produced from lived experiences to carefully strategize their fights against injustice. (more…)

SPEAK UP! Establishing Online Voice through Blogging

I see the blogging as major asset in my arsenal as a young activist.

As an accessible, equalizing platform, the blogosphere gives voice to those underrepresented in the mainstream media. With easy options for sharing and commenting, a blog can create online community, highlight critical perspectives, and serve as an opportunity for activists and feminists to engage in constructive dialogue. In the modern landscape of activism, blogging can be understood as necessary skill for any opinionated change-maker. But how is it learned?

Young woman with laptop surrounded by magazines

Last month, I had the pleasure of leading an innovative BCRW workshop for Barnard students called SPEAK UP!  Establishing Online Voice through Blogging with fellow Barnard student and renown teen blogger, Julie Zeilinger. Although incredibly beneficial on a personal, professional, and community level, blogging is not a widely taught skill set. Often, individual learning happens through a trial and error process with little support or formula. For many, the lack of facilitation, experience, or technical expertise becomes a hindrance for participation.

Inspired by the recent launch of the BCRW Blog, Julie and I endeavored to set up a forum to teach and encourage blogging among students as a means of self expression and activism. The event aimed to open a discussion on campus about opportunities and strategies for effective blogging; it was designed both to train BCRW Research Assistants in using our Center’s blog, and also to give members of the Barnard student body an opportunity to learn the basic skills and network with other users on campus.

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Dana Goldstein, Renina Jarmon & Courtney Martin on Sites of Digital Community

In preparation for tomorrow’s Digital Community Roundtable, a few of our panelists share their favorite sites of digital community below.

Dana (@DanaGoldstein):

My favorite digital community is Twitter. I know that is broad, but when I think of digital community, that’s what I think of. Of the various publications I write for, I think Slate does the best job of maintaining a civil and intelligent comments section, which I enjoy reading and engaging with. I’ve also been impressed with the “Comment is Free” forum for opinion journalism on the website of The Guardian, the British newspaper.

Renina (@ReninaCortez):

I find tumblr to be a really interesting space where women across race address race, class, gender and sexuality. For example:

Demand Fair Justice for Cece McDonald

Courtney (@courtwrites):

Sites I love:

  • SPARK – creating a real, proactive conversation where girls are the subjects not the objects
  • Crunk Feminist Collective – the writing is consistently complex, clear, and often profound; I always learn something
  • Brain Pickings – I don’t know how much of a community has really been created here, but I love Maria’s totally fresh and unique take on the literary life

What are your favorite sites of digital community?


Upcoming Event: Digital Community Formation

BCRW is excited to kick off our Digital Impact Series on Tuesday October 9th, with the Digital Community Formation Roundtable. We’re bringing together several academics, bloggers, and journalists – including Jon Beller, Brittney Cooper, Gail Drakes, Dana Goldstein, Renina Jarmon, and Courtney Martin – to talk about what they think about digital community, how they build it, and what kind of impact it has on their work.

picture of a network of nodes and links

As an exercise in our own use of digital networks and platforms, below are some quotes from the speakers to give you a glimpse of where they’re coming from.

And we’re asking you to leave your thoughts on digital community, and the questions you’d like the speakers to address, in the comments.

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What We’re Reading: Reminders of War, Home Health Workers, What Makes a Family, and Culture as a Toolbox

A quick look at what caught the attention of BCRW Staff last week…

We’re Still at War, Mother Jones Magazine

The Mother Jones‘ “Photo of the Day” offers a daily visual reminder that the United States is effectively still at war – no words necessary.

This article was picked out by Hope, our New Media Manager.

Chart depicting how labor laws around extending minimum wage and overtime projections to domestic workers vary across U.S. states

Home health workers sweat Obama rule on pay, by Tony Pugh

For almost forty years, professional home health care workers have been excluded from overtime and minimum wage requirements. A proposed change to this loophole could benefit nearly 1.8 million workers in the nation’s fastest-growing occupation, but activists have become concerned that the slow process will spell doom for reform.

This article was picked out by Janet, our Director.

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