“To create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become… How [stories] are told, who tells them, when they're told… [are] dependent on power … the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” ~ Chimamanda Adichie
This FIRE stream builds on the AADHum Initiative’s mission to prepare the next generation of scholars by mobilizing digital theories, methods and tools to enrich explorations of African American experience. Drawing on one of the Initiative’s central themes – migration – it helps students examine how ideas and narratives circulate in American society, rising to prominence and falling out of vogue. We will consider: Who gets to set the narrative for a group, community or nation – and why? How do the stories we’re told impact how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves? Most importantly, how can we use digital methods to imagine, produce, share more and varied narratives to disrupt the “single story” and to expand narratives in our fields?
In the first semester, students become critical analysts of historical and contemporary narratives, tracing the migration of stories about gender, marriage and family in texts, film, audio and interactive media. Learning digital methods, they will explore narratives of “black love” that emerged in the age of Obama, as well as interrogate “single stories” of black relationships (e.g. gender wars, “broken” families, (ir)responsible fatherhood) and how African Americans’ are obscured in other love narratives (e.g. romance, the “All-American” family, enduring marriages). The second semester challenges students to become producers of digital narratives – collecting and developing original data in written, audio and visual formats to develop narrative projects that re-frame familiar stories or reveal little known events and figures. Students will gain experience in methods including interviewing, transcribing, coding, word mapping database development and narrative construction as they create and curate digital oral history archives, multi-media dialogues and digital exhibitions. Ultimately, students will begin developing their own perspectives on the productive power of narrative as a tool of agency and social change.