Blog Posts Reflection

Reflection: Takkara Brunson

Dr. Takkara Brunson (Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, California State University, Fresno) describes how her institute experience provided her with digital mapping skills which she has since incorporated into her university courses.

The Caribbean Studies Digital Humanities Institute provided a rigorous introduction to the various digital platforms available for studying the region. Since the institute, I have incorporated map building into my African cultural perspectives course at California State University, Fresno. The course focuses broadly on the histories and cultures of the African Diaspora. We devote substantial attention to examining the Caribbean as part of the diaspora–notably, through units on slavery, cultural formations, and global political movements. During the fall 2019 semester, I incorporated a new assignment in which students were required to build a digital map on a topic of their choice. Students enthusiastically created maps that examined the spread of the Garvey Movement, Black Power in the Caribbean, and reggaeton music, among other topics. Having discussed what such an assignment might look like with other attendees during the institute, I integrated mapping assignments into class exercises throughout the semester; I made sure to allocate class time to building the maps. This resulted in one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had in leading students through research projects.

In addition to meeting scholars from across the U.S. and Caribbean, I appreciated the opportunity to learn about existing projects that demonstrated the potential of the digital humanities for connecting with public audiences. I spent years imagining ways to present my research on Black women in pre-revolutionary Cuba through a publicly accessible digital map. I now have the tools to do so.