At the heart of the rugged island of Dominica stands a majestic mountain range now home to a major tourist attraction called the Waitukubuli National Trail. The mountains are mostly inhabitable, and cross-island roadways running through the interior can make even a homegrown passenger dizzy from the greenery and elevation. In the 1700s, this area was known by a different name. Within the seemingly impenetrable forest was an entire society in which hundreds of people lived sustainably and formed various communities with intricate and organized economic, political, and social networks. This was known as Maroon Country.1
The location of Maroon Country in the heartland of Dominica is a prescient example of the Black Atlantic’s audacity in the face of the legal, political, and economic pillage and violence of colonialism and slavery. The maroons were de facto independent Africans, forging alliances as equals to the European troops and settlers. More importantly, their way of life hinged on the principles of self-reliance and sustainability. In an era when the Caribbean islands were receiving their largest supply of enslaved labor and sugar production in the region was rising steadily, the maroons’ refusal to acquiesce or surrender to European authority was a success story of active resistance that lasted more than fifty years on that particular island.
In Dominica, this resistance’s major defeat came in 1814 when one of the maroon chiefs, Chief Jacko, was assassinated by the British Army on the main clearing of a forest area now named after him. Despite this tragic loss and the imprisonment, enslavement, and execution of a number of maroons, the ethics of resistance by which they lived have had lasting impacts on the island, and similar narratives of resistance, rebellion, and autonomy can be found from Cuba to Guyana and into Latin America. The maroons set an example in the Caribbean historical record of how to take ownership of a narrative and reshape a collective experience. Their freedom within Dominica’s resistant topography—a space that was extremely difficult for Europeans to occupy, settle, and modernize—illustrates the audacity of their sovereignty despite the legal, economic, and social logics of plantation slavery. In a maroon society, the defining paradigm is that people reclaim and occupy the available place and space to reconstitute their subjectivity against the threat of oppression or erasure. We may consider this newly constituted space a heterotopia.
In his 1967 lecture, “Des Espaces Autres” (Of Other Spaces), Michel Foucault defines heterotopias as places “outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality.”2 The heterotopia is a hybrid site of recognition, which confirms that the space I occupy is relational to the space my neighbor occupies; by my very existence and actions within that location, I am identifying myself within that other space and therefore producing conditions under and through which my neighbor can then occupy her space, and vice versa. Foucault employs the analogy of the mirror used to describe the ideal heterotopia:
From the standpoint of the mirror, I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes towards myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am.3
Foucault’s notion of a heterotopia satisfies the following key principles: it is (1) a constant across human groups and cultures, (2) transformative by each generation and each society and adaptable to history, (3) capable of holding within a singular space multiple places and spaces, (4) responsive to changes and breaks in time functions, (5) holding points of entry and departure “that both isolates them and makes them penetrable,” and (6) creating additional spaces, either illusory or utopian in nature.4 If we consider maroon societies as more than the ideologies they produced, if we accept that they occupy both physical and intellectual space in Caribbean history and lived experience, then we can perceive how they meet these key principles and how they constitute the “heterotopia par excellence,” as Foucault imagines the ship: “a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over into the infinity of the sea.”5 As the ship gives into the sea, maroonage extends into the land, no matter how that space is settled by the colonizer or how much colonial forces deny the maroons’ rights to the ground on which they stand. In this defiance, maroon societies and identities position themselves as heterotopias of resistance, rejecting the denial of civility and sovereignty to Africans in the New World. Before and since the maroons, Black people in the Atlantic have negotiated their ability to carve out livable spaces, always in resistance or counterpoint to oppressive forces that deny them humanity, let alone their right to their own space.
In the twenty-first century, digital technology has made possible online spaces through which people from all parts of the world, individually and collectively, negotiate their identities in changing sociopolitical and even environmental conditions. On the internet, a site for performance of identity is created when someone creates an email address or social media account. There, people can upload and explore multiple personas, engage in closed or open-access conversations, add users and participants to networks, receive updates and transform its interface, and even present alternate realities for the creators/users to experiment. What is the digital, if not the heterotopia of our time?
The era of digital technology provides a new historical moment to observe how Caribbean people have collectively responded to hegemonic discourse by occupying and taking ownership of their place. On social media, in mainstream news, and in scholarly and intellectual digital environments, Caribbean identity gets remapped and reframed against neoliberal and neocolonial presumption. Evidence of resistance in Caribbean digital practice can be examined through a study of the key tenets of artistic and intellectual production in the region. In producing and expanding online spaces for engagement and critique via such institutions, what can the Caribbean gain and lose in the effective recording of Caribbean lives and livelihoods, when the very fabric on which we seek to build and expand our domain is a placeless place?
In this chapter, I reframe the performance of contemporary Caribbean identity within digital spaces as a heterotopia of resistance, one in which digital technology serves as a mirror—a placeless place—that has allowed Caribbean societies to refashion traumas, visualize anxieties, and transcribe apprehensions of displacement, invasion, and violation by imperial and neocolonial entities. I explore digital knowledge production as a response to changing social conditions, with respect to key areas of Caribbean intellectual and popular culture that both influence and are influenced by their mediation through digital technology: namely, the contemporary challenges facing Caribbean libraries and the creation and curation of Caribbean digital archives, as exemplified through the work of the Create Caribbean Research Institute, the first digital humanities center in the Eastern Caribbean.
My journey to Caribbean digital humanities began with an assumption, rather than an argument, that acts and the scenes of reading in the context of the colonial and postcolonial Caribbean were important ways through which West Indian identity cataloged itself for the annals of history. Acts of reading were acts of resistance and self-determination for a society that was taught primarily to value the utilitarianism of literacy. The pioneers of Caribbean literature defied this expectation of colonial education and built a canon, Nobel Prizes included. However, the boom of West Indian literature in the metropoles of Britain and the United States has not always translated into equitable or prolific engagements with literature across race and social class in the region itself. Historically low investments in libraries from the Crown and negligible publishing options or even bookshops in the territories of the British West Indies have led to a (still applicable) disparity between the proliferation of West Indian novels and celebration of Caribbean writers “over there” in the metropolitan world and the scarcity of these novels, and therefore the lack of an audience to read them, back in the Caribbean.
Post–World War II technology would significantly shape the nature of reading and access in the Caribbean, and the BBC’s Caribbean Voices, headed by Henry Swanzy, would bridge the divide of space and literacy by broadcasting to Caribbean and British audiences the up-and-coming writers of the Caribbean. What was special about this technological shift was the attempt to spatially redirect knowledge production as if in a circuit: some moved from West Indies to England to write; some write from the Caribbean and send their work to England; creative work is broadcast from England to the West Indies; this repeats until a canon is formed. What was also significant about this historical moment is that most of the creative writers and artists of that time were also deeply involved in political activism of decolonization and later in independence movements. Intellectual activity, especially surrounding the sustained study of history and cultural, literary, and political theory, animated the work of C. L. R. James, Kamau Brathwaite, Eric Williams, Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Phyllis Shand Allfrey, and other literary-political figures. In the absence of a collective place or space to share their knowledge, they developed literary magazines to share their writing. But for a mostly poor and working-class, nonliterate Black population in the region that was solely focused on utilitarian education, there was little to no circulation of these works beyond those individuals who had direct access to these writers and thinkers.
The state of public libraries in the region—both the conditions of their facilities and the quality of their circulating collections—showcases this foreignness of knowledge production as they amassed large collections of Western writing while relegating the West Indian and Caribbean elements to “special” reserved sections out of circulation for reading publics. Public libraries in the Anglophone Caribbean specifically did not keep up as swiftly with the mandate to circulate writing by West Indian writers or even to bridge the digital divide through public events, access to computers, and job-seeking services. Although some of these services were offered, the limited resources invested in the expansion of physical libraries across the region overshadowed the commitment and energy of dedicated librarians to make this expansion possible. The public library in Dominica, a gift from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation in 1907, sits across the street from the State House, a recently constructed monstrous edifice that China gave to us as a symbol of our diplomatic relationship. Even before Hurricane Maria made a skeleton of the library building in 2017, the stark contrast between the State House on one side of the street and the library on the other side was startling. Now, the uncovered library building—a shell of its former aged self—is an even harsher indictment of a system that values political economy over cultural will. Grenada, for example, has struggled to maintain a government-funded library, and a community resource library championed by a group of activists, including author Oonya Kempadoo, has taken up the mantle of serving the community’s literary and digital needs.6
Jamaica Kincaid synthesizes the paradox of the function of the library in A Small Place when she describes the destroyed edifice in Antigua:
Why is this old building that was damaged in the famous earthquake years ago, the building that has the legend on it THIS BUILDING WAS DAMAGED IN THE EARTHQUAKE OF 1974. REPAIRS ARE PENDING, not repaired and the library put back in the place where it used to be? Or why, years after The Earthquake damaged the old library building, has a new library not been built? Why is the library above a dry-goods store in an old run-down cement-brick building?7
Kincaid’s concern is not new. In 1964, the celebrated Caribbean librarian, Alma Jordan, shared the observations of the Carnegie Corporation representatives, who had visited three decades earlier: “Dr. Ernest Savage . . . found an almost uniform pattern of stagnation and decay” in Eastern Caribbean islands in 1933.8 That was almost a century after the abolition of slavery in the region. Almost 100 years into the free movement of Black people in the West Indies, the notion of the library was still restricted largely to personal collections by a white settler class and educated Black people who aspired to British social equivalence.
In Dominica—a country with a rich national archives of registers of enslaved people, newspaper and maps collections, and a wealth of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century manuscripts—the need for technology and funding to digitize and make those collections accessible has reached a new level of urgency, because the larger, more destructive hurricanes in the wake of climate change have damaged or destroyed many of the physical buildings that house the library branches. My experience of using the library system in Dominica and other Eastern Caribbean islands during a number of archival research trips highlighted this inaccessibility of local knowledge to the reading public. Clearly, the gated “protection” of the West Indian collections signifies not only reverence for knowledge but also a failure to understand its actual usefulness beyond the point of preservation. In addition to the special collections and archival material, many of these libraries only have a single copy of popular Caribbean literature that would so easily be accessible to students in the United States or Canada by a visit to the bookstore or a click on Amazon. This lack of access also reveals the economies of reading of a developing Caribbean: the cost of acquiring and disseminating the literature of representation in the region had a direct impact on the use and relevance of public libraries, which, in turn, affected the level of priority given to its public funding within the larger political and economic sphere. My experience of using the National Archives and the Government’s Documentation Center further drove this point home: the number of users has dwindled to a negligible fraction of the public library usage. There are only a handful of local historians and enthusiasts taking advantage of the resources; most users are foreign scholars, who will then publish work on the content of these collections behind exorbitant paywalls that the library system cannot afford to purchase.
This is my point of entry as a Caribbean literary and cultural studies scholar, a Black woman, a West Indian child of the digital (r)evolution, living in the Caribbean after consciously transplanting from the research and teaching hierarchies of U.S. academia, who uses a “thing” called digital humanities to find my way through my own Caribbean identity and to help young people discover the power of knowledge production within the space of the West Indies where their citizenship, their existence, and their future are rooted. I had been working with and learning new trends in the field of digital humanities for several years as a student and later through digital pedagogy in my teaching praxis. I founded Create Caribbean Research Institute in 2014 because of the convergence in my head of the following threads: the search for Caribbean readers, the desire to define and expand the Caribbean historical record, and my search for an intellectual community linked to my own desire as a Caribbean person in love with literature to find community around the impact of language on my own identity and sense of belonging.9 In a sense, Create Caribbean was the articulation of my archive fever, “an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement.”10 It was a place to store myself and my desires for a more livable place for my intellectual and psychological wellness. I wanted to see a space in the Caribbean that was a living pledge to the preservation of Caribbean indigenous knowledge. I wanted a space where I could bring together my three scholarly passions—the love of literature (acts of reading particularly), heritage and archives preservation, and digital technology.
Create Caribbean stemmed directly from my observations and desires awakened by working closely with the Nature Island Literary Festival, with primary and secondary schools on literacy projects, and with public and private sector entities on research to influence culture and education policy.11 It also grew from my own belief in creativity and experimentation as foundations to academic excellence and eventually economic development. To effectively create a space of resistance in the context of the cultural and historical work already taking place (or not taking place) in Dominica, I would have to fundamentally transform how I defined and translated the idea of digital humanities and its potential. Jessica Marie Johnson captures perfectly the way that the digital occupies a powerful place in making cultural interventions, even as the academic weight of the term “digital humanities” has little weight in the public sphere, in her interview with the Los Angeles Times Review of Books:
I think the general public is not so interested in digital humanities. I don’t think the digital humanities is a phrase that resonates. In fact, I think it can be a phrase that turns people off because it feels too heavy with scholarship and the ivory tower. I think the general public may find DH interesting for a time, but I don’t think it’s a real buzzword. But I do think the digital work being done resonates really well.12
In the developing nation of Dominica, this lack of resonance of the term “digital humanities” noted by Johnson could not be more true of my experience as I worked to develop the first digital humanities center in the region.
Johnson also highlights the challenge of reframing our understanding and explanations of the digital—not simply digital humanities—to render the humanity of people of color around the world in the stories we tell and the work we do:
The way I understand how I do humanities work and how I approach history is deeply informed by what I understand to be my digital world and the digital landscape with which I engage. The digital influences the way that I approach the archive; my understanding of how to read sources and how people in the past and present are engaged with each other; and how to read into things that are more ephemeral, like the moments in which we laugh, in which language changes, and the shorthand languages that we use among each other that define who is kin, friend, or enemy. Those moments or spaces that are more ephemeral are both analogous to me of social media spaces and also of the ways and moments that diasporic black folk have played in the fragments of the archives.13
I share much of Johnson’s commitment to the revelation of narratives and the formation of kinships that happen through the exploration and circulation of the archive. The performance of Caribbean culture using digital technology enables Caribbean people to reshape their collective narrative and to imagine alternate Caribbean futures.
For the Caribbean, curation of digital spaces and the digitization of the historical record as done through the Digital Library of the Caribbean, the Caribbean Memory Project, and the Radio Haiti Archive illustrate the ways that outreach to diverse communities of Caribbean people calls for a resistance to the limited language permitted by digital humanities.14 Caribbeanist scholars must attempt to make accessible to local communities the vocabulary, methods, and motives of their work. By so doing, participants and users of the Caribbean are centered in the context of the work and are empowered to use the content of these projects to reconstitute narratives of history, language, and political will. In none of these contexts, whether academic, vernacular, or polemic, does the subject(s) of study and therefore the user as subject employ a place of deference to a more metropolitan or foreign subject. Each in its own way, these projects demonstrate Foucault’s principles of heterotopias at work, while also pushing back on colonial assumptions about who owns these histories and the places in and through which they get a new life and audience. Create Caribbean is part of this larger Caribbeanist project to reverse and recover the history of the archipelago using the voice, tools, and sensibilities of the descendants of the oppressed in the region, reclaiming not only our narratives but also their residence in colonial libraries, homes, and schools.
Perhaps the most significant act of resistance that has taken place through Create Caribbean since its formation in 2014 is its pedagogical work. Through the design and instruction of a course titled “Digital Humanities Research,” I introduced students barely comfortable with the rhetorical expression of college composition to the theories, methods, and strategies designed for classrooms in the North Atlantic in primarily research-based university environments. The course, designed for Dominica State College’s General Education curriculum but specifically with student interns of Create Caribbean in mind, was the first of its kind to be offered in the English-speaking Caribbean. That in itself was a maroon act that required defying the expectations of formal research and dismantling the specialized vocabulary of digital humanities for an audience that had absolutely no investment in that exclusive and esoteric academic terminology.
But what actually happens in the digital humanities classroom in Dominica that particularly resonates as a heterotopia of resistance? How does combining the formal conventions of academic research, the use of libraries, and the formation of knowledge about the region move late adolescents to unlearn internalized colonial histories? It begins really with their personal engagement with place, centering local knowledge about their homeland as the key to their academic and professional success. It also begins with an acknowledgment as a classroom of learners that it is indeed easier, if not just less labor intensive, to find information about foreign lands than it is to find information about their home. Much of this realization is grounded in conversations in the first unit of the course when we discuss the advancements made in technology and the digital age, while acknowledging the ways in which parts of the world are excluded or disproportionately affected by these technological advances. Students acknowledge the persistent gap in accessing academic material—in print, at low cost, and with few restrictions—which leads to debates over the nobility of piracy; the notion of “Robin Hood” access to information becomes critical to the theoretical discussions about open source and open access that form the first few units of the digital humanities course.
Additionally, positioning libraries, archives, and special collections as a symbiotic triad of place, resource, and primary text—to remind students of their Dominican-ness and their Caribbean-ness—demonstrates the symbiotic triad’s function as a heterotopia of resistance, challenging technology that makes them feel more connected to neoliberal capitalist material of popular culture and social media. Creating an analogy between the geography of Dominica and the experience of navigating archival research—for example, comparing their final project journeys to navigating the difficult topography of Dominica—allows students to physically and psychically occupy physical and historical spaces from which they had felt disconnected. The students’ explorations of libraries and Caribbean special collections, in person and online, or their visits to archives and museums bring to life the intersection of academic and archival research, Caribbean social and cultural practices, and the influence of slavery and colonialism on literacy, teaching and learning, and knowledge production in the Caribbean. Even when their encounters with their local knowledges happen through digital platforms like the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), they are uniquely aware of the significance not only of that historical preservation but, even more importantly, also of the visibility of Dominica and Dominicans in the vast internet space. Students then share their experiences with navigating the archives and building relationships with the historical record within and outside of that space through their weekly blog entries.
The work of building a digital research project in this course indeed mirrors the concepts and terminologies of the library system and further works to connect the students to the process of making history, not just encountering historical artifacts. Their own attempts to curate, digitize, and create exhibits of their primary sources on the Omeka software platform requires the discipline, care, and attention to audience that they see in the work ethic of the librarians they encounter as they conduct their research. Students have to be metacognitive about organizational choices, audience, and possible setbacks in the process of preserving their nation’s history. The outcomes of this model include the increased value of local and indigenous knowledge to scholars and students in the region, an increase among students in civic engagement in local and regional politics and policies, and the intellectual and sociological transformation of the Caribbean humanities classroom.
Student interns at Create Caribbean who complete this “Digital Humanities Research” course are thus prepared to take on a new heterotopia of resistance in the form of the Create Caribbean Internship Lab, where they develop and manage much larger digital research projects of similar thematic and historical merit. For example, in one of its many digital projects, Create Caribbean collaborated with Dominica’s Division of Culture to change the way students learn and think about history, particularly the complex history of Dominica.15 The Dominica History project, inaugurated with the theme “The Road to Independence,”16 was launched as the signature event of History Week 2015. History Week is a cluster of activities, held annually in the weeks leading up to Dominica’s independence celebrations, that highlight a particular aspect of Dominica’s rich history to primary and secondary school students around the country. Traditionally, it includes lectures and school presentations by historians and history enthusiasts, cultural officers, and specially invited speakers. Although those elements still remain part of the week’s programming, the web resource now serves as the signature production on each year’s theme. The students make this final project possible by pairing the skills of formal academic and archival research taught within the program and in their digital humanities undergraduate course with building or enhancing software and other digital tools.
The Dominica History site on the 2015 theme “The Road to Independence” includes interactive timelines of the various decades from 1950–1978—the formal timeline of the project—that illustrate major social and political events taking place in Dominica in the postcolonial times leading up to our national independence. The archive is a repository of many primary-source news clippings, newspaper and periodical issues, oral histories, private correspondences, photographs, and videos with content applicable to this theme. For the site on the 2016 theme, “Building Communities: 1838–1938,” the team took a more artistic, childlike approach to the rendering of the transformation of Dominica’s communities from societies of enslaved people and estates to modern towns and villages.17 The team members included a graphic artist whose art formed a central part of the storytelling element of the archive. Whereas the 2015 project relied heavily on the formal structures of an Omeka archive, the 2016 site allowed for the student users to connect more viscerally to the historical transformations of their own neighborhoods.
Some of the impressive work of the students on both these projects appear in the exhibits and short photo and text essays on various topics, both broad and specific, that help outline important themes of that time period. Most of the essays were written and researched by the Create Caribbean student interns and made available based on topics that would be relevant to primary and secondary school learning. The sites also feature some creative displays for primary school audiences and a contribution page where adults who remember their lives in that time can share their own stories.18
The project was an annual collaboration with the Division of Culture and Dominica Library and Information Service (DLIS).19 The DLIS team provides technical guidance and access to topical source materials that are digitized and made available on the website. Regional and international resources, including the digitized material at dLOC, are also linked as primary sources on the digital Omeka and WordPress platforms used to create the site. The students receive authorship credit for their work, a concept unimaginable before this experience, while also gaining a unique exposure to academic and research environments, as many of them prepare to transfer to four-year colleges and universities. But the most important work that happens through the creation of these spaces for the children and young adults of Dominica to navigate history is the footwork done by the Create Caribbean team—going to schools and classrooms; making presentations on the content and the process of creating the content; providing tutorials so students can learn how to use the site; and providing contact information, both on and offline, for future conversations about the technology and the history. Students’ use of the digital space to create content for other students that is centered on the representation of local knowledge is the ultimate heterotopia of resistance in the academic and intellectual project of the postcolonial Caribbean. Through the process of experimenting, teaching, and learning, students from the first grade to those earning an associate’s degree gain an education where no longer must they see England and the United States as central sites while they remain barely visible at the margins. They are not required to position themselves as lesser next to the “bigger islands” of Jamaica and Trinidad but can understand their commonalities and kinship when they encounter their histories. Placing their history, their story, at the center of their digital experience of history is an intellectual project of contemporary maroonage.
Another project that not only offers an opportunity for experimentation but also evokes in its very form and content the heterotopia of resistance is Imagined Homeland.20 This digital humanities project is currently the only Create Caribbean project based solely on Caribbean literature. I designed it from a selfish place—wanting to return to my life of literary criticism, feeling a bit of disconnection between my digital humanities self and my literary scholar self. At the time, I was asked to write the introduction to a new edition of Phyllis Shand Allfrey’s 1953 novel, The Orchid House, a story of three white sisters set in Dominica in the early twentieth century. Revisiting the narrative reminded me of the several ways that representation matters, one of which is in the politics of place. Very rarely do students in Dominica get to engage with authors from Dominica, books about Dominica, or even characters who look like them and talk like them in fiction. This issue of representation is a much broader one facing Black and brown people around the world, but here was an opportunity to localize a challenge in Caribbean cultural studies—to use affordable and accessible technology—and to place students quite literally in a novel environment to see what happens next. The project Imagined Homeland was the result. Students read fiction set in Dominica or written by Dominican authors, engage in literary analysis, produce visual exhibits, and then map the geographies of these novels to gain a better understanding of where and how characters, who may or may not be like them, navigate their Caribbean lives and identities. By virtue of reading the novels and mapping the characters’ journeys, the students defy the single story that Jean Rhys is the only author who has “put Dominica on the map.” They challenge and reject the way the physical space of Dominica and the Caribbean has been defined as too small, too poor, too developing for intellectual and economic progress. They put Dominica on the map themselves, creating the maps with their digital tools and methods.
As a literary scholar, I find that the potential and power of digital humanities lie in its capacity for storytelling. The range of tools available to visualize storytelling and to make room for additional forms of analysis using those paradigms is a major benefit of digital humanities, especially because those methods provide me with ways to merge the theories and methodologies of Caribbean, postcolonial, and Black Studies with the imaginative release of a well-structured story. Using the digital to find, curate, and retell those stories has had the greatest impact on the trajectory of my work and the most immediate positive impact on the students in Dominica with whom I build these projects. Imagined Homeland is the most explicit articulation of that impulse. Such projects bring students closer to a sense of shared responsibility for the political, economic, and cultural future of their Caribbean home. The lofty goal of this work is for students to so strongly see themselves reflected in their learning, the media they consume, and their exchanges using the dominant forms of communication that the idea of leaving the region to find success elsewhere will certainly give them pause.
Digital humanities serves as the architecture through which scholars and students create a new space altogether. Its methodology and praxis have afforded me a range of experience to examine the ways that the digital world facilitates the narrative empowerment of Caribbean cultural identity. Yet, in a region that continues to struggle with local access to higher education (the majority of the college-age population still migrates to North America) and has quite marked literacy and digital divides, it is not far-reaching to ask whether the college classroom is the only way and place to get Caribbean people to start thinking and feeling their way to becoming change makers using digital forms. Certainly, we know that the answer to this question is no; we have seen the effectiveness of organizations like Black Girls Code in disrupting the narrative about women of color in the tech industry and being an example of successful change making in a given industry.21 But for me, the power of digital humanities becomes more palpable for Caribbean content creation in our time than a single or specific profession, industry, or area of study. Taking the activities of thinking, coding, reading, writing, playing, and building beyond the college classroom and into programs for young children, as with the Create and Code technology education program, further disrupts the expectations of access and cultural fluency in West Indian communities that continue to be heavily determined by socioeconomic status.22 Breaking the digital divide by taking the program “on the road” to rural communities or partnering with schools and national and international initiatives such as International Girls in ICT Day pushes the young programmers, researchers, and content creators to draw on their local sites of knowledge—libraries, family, community elders—and to also identify and work to improve the gaps in their knowledge about themselves as Dominican and Caribbean citizens.23
In outlining the networks that frame and populate the web of digital technology, reading practices, and restoration, recovery, and repatriation of the Caribbean historical record through a distinct maroon pedagogy, I highlighted the ways that the cultural artifacts and attitudes produced through Create Caribbean constitute what Glissant describes as rhizomatic thought, the core of a poetics of relation. Through the work of digitization, teaching, and public engagement, Create Caribbean asserts a discourse of resistance, maintaining “the idea of rootedness but challeng[ing] that of a totalitarian root.”24 Through its methodology and praxis, Create Caribbean relies on the specificity of place and the complex history of space in Dominica and the Eastern Caribbean to confront and contest the narratives of history, while actively revisiting and revising Caribbean identity of the past and creating alternate narratives for a future time and place. In this way, Create Caribbean proves its rooted errantry, as Glissant describes.25 The digital becomes not only an alternate space of residence but also, and more importantly, a space of boundless imaginative freedom that can inform and reshape the geopolitical dimensions of Caribbean life.
In Caribbean intellectual discourse, conceptions of space persist according to the accordion logic of expansion and return: the repeating island, the archipelago, the sea as history. Caribbean culture resists Western thought’s sacred spatial boundaries at all levels of articulation by transforming the imposed narratives of enslaved, rebel, and poor into stories that place their celebration of self and nation at the center. The complexity of digital humanities practice applied to Caribbean studies—by this, I mean the exploration of how Caribbean people live and thrive—provides even more nuance for this exploration, as seen in the examples of building tools, thematic research, and teaching of undergraduate students. All of these movements via and through the digital have resulted in challenges and triumphs that shift the definitions and paradigms of what it means to be Caribbean in our contemporary moment. Perhaps it is not too bold to declare the establishment, persistence, and production of Create Caribbean as a maroon act. In its design, its repetition of and reconnection with local knowledges, its experimentation with time and space, its acknowledgment of the fragility of place in the age of climate change, and its insistence on revisiting history to offer Caribbean youth possible futures, Create Caribbean is, par excellence, the heterotopia of resistance.
Honychurch, Negre Mawon, 24–28.
Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” 7.
Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” 4.
Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” 7.
Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” 9.
See “Will the Grenada Public Library Building Suffer the Same Fate as York House?” accessed February 7, 2020, http://www.nowgrenada.com/2013/05/will-the-grenada-public-library-building-sufferthe-same-fate-as-york-house/ and The Grenada Community Library and Resource Center Facebook page, accessed February 7, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/mtzionlibraryhrc/.
Kincaid, A Small Place, 42.
Jordan, “Public Libraries in the British Caribbean I,” 148.
See Create Caribbean, accessed February 7, 2020, http://createcaribbean.org.
Derrida and Prenowitz, “Archive Fever,” 57.
See the Nature Island Literary Festival and Book Fair, accessed February 7, 2020, http://dominicalitfest.com.
Johnson, “The Digital in the Humanities.”
Johnson, “The Digital in the Humanities.”
See the Digital Library of the Caribbean, accessed February 7, 2020, http://dloc.com; the Caribbean Memory Project, accessed February 7, 2020, http://caribbeanmemoryproject.com; Radio Haiti, accessed February 7, 2020, http://radiohaitilives.com/.
See the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Community Development, Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica, accessed February 7, 2020, http://culture.gov.dm.
See Dominica’s History, 2015: Theme: The Road to Independence, accessed February 7, 2020, https://dominicahistory.org/start/.
See Building Communities 1838–1938: Dominica’s History, accessed February 7, 2020, http://dominicahistory.org/2016/.
The Create Caribbean team did not complete a 2017 Dominica History project because Hurricane Maria struck the island in September of that year.
See Dominica Library & Information Service, accessed February 7, 2020, http://dlis.gov.dm.
See Imagined Homeland, accessed February 7, 2020, http://dominicadh.org/homeland/.
See Black Girls Code, accessed February 7, 2020, http://blackgirlscode.org.
See Create and Code, accessed February 7, 2020, http://createcaribbean.org/create/create-and-code.
The “on the road” digital workshops have been done primarily in conjunction with the Nature Island Literary Festival. Those workshops’ focus is on using digital technology to improve children’s engagement with the literary arts. For Create Caribbean’s commemoration of 2017 International Girls in ICT Day, see https://youtu.be/i75S-up5GWU.
Glissant, Poetics of Relation, 11.
Glissant, Poetics of Relation, 37–41.
Benitez-Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective. Translated by James E. Maraniss. 2nd ed. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 1997.
Derrida, Jacques, and Eric Prenowitz. “Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression.” Diacritics 25, no. 2 (1995): 9–63. doi:10.2307/465144.
Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces (Des Espaces Autres).” Architecture / Mouvement / Continuité (October 1984): 1–9.
Glissant, Édouard. Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
Honychurch, Lennox. Negre Mawon: The Fighting Maroons of Dominica. Portsmouth, Dominica: Island Heritage Initiatives, 2014.
Johnson, Jessica Marie. “The Digital in the Humanities: An Interview with Jessica Marie Johnson.” Los Angeles Review of Books, accessed January 14, 2018, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/digital-humanities-interview-jessica-marie-johnson/.
Jordan, Alma. “Public Libraries in the British Caribbean I.” Library Quarterly 34, no. 2 (1964): 143–62.
Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988.