Projects and Courses

Roots of the Commonwealth: Caribbean Provisions from the British Empire to the 21st Century

Dr. Keja Valens, Salem State University

We will consider literary, historical, and archival materials as we work to chart the ways that provisions have been planted and transplanted, prepared and consumed, imagined and depicted in relation to ideas of indigeneity, independence, and community in the Caribbean and its diaspora.

Course Overview

  • ENG 715: Topics in Digital Studies, a graduate-level course
  • Examine and use concepts and practices of postcolonial digital humanities to trace literary, culinary, agricultural, and economic paths of ground provisions with a focus on provisions such as yuca, yam and plantain in and through the Caribbean from the 15th through the 21st centuries.
  • Draw course materials from the Early Caribbean Digital Archive, the Digital Library of the Caribbean, HathiTrust, the Internet Archive and other similar sources to develop digital projects that include mapping, timelines, and curated exhibits.

Outcomes & Deliverables

Students completed a series of assignments focused on critical analysis of primary sources and interpretation through digital tools. They completed reflective writings and developed “Provisions,” a multi-exhibit Omeka project.


Course Syllabus

Spring 2020 schedule with links to additional resources and readings (Shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.)

Assignment: Mapping & Meaning

Designed to support critical and conceptual thinking about maps (Shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.)

Assignment: How are West Indians Represented in the Archive?

Reflecting on Lady Nugent’s Journal (Shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.)

Exhibit: Provisions

A series of student-created Omeka exhibits on the role of ground provisions such as yams in Caribbean foodways

New Digital Worlds

Students read Dr. Roopika Risam’s book throughout the semester.

Institute Reflection

Keja discusses how the institute impacted her course.

Blog Posts Reflection

Reflection: Nathan Dize

Nathan Dize (PhD Candidate in French and Italian, Vanderbilt University) discusses how participation in the Caribbean Digital Humanities Institute expanded his understanding of how digital scholarship and tools can be applied in the classroom. Combining his background in Haitian literature and history with a new knowledge of digital humanities tools, Nathan applied his experience with the institute by designing several new courses.

My experience with the Caribbean Digital Humanities Institute was a formative experience in that it enabled me to acquire new skills, to build community and network, and it expanded my ideas for where my digital scholarship and teaching could go next.

Nathan Dize sitting at table and speaking during session

The focus on both TimeLineJS and StoryMapsJS during the institute was helpful because these were ‘tools’ that I had seen before, but never had the chance to actually experiment with or use in a learning environment. I appreciated the slow time that the Institute created where we could walk around the room and talk about how others were using these tools and others, to get a broad sense of what individuals can bring to digital modes of expression.

The CDHI completely expanded my understanding of what was possible when it came to oral histories and the affordances of community archiving. Since I am grounded in a discipline that does not always look favorably on these methodologies (they are considered non-canonical), I found that the CDHI provided me with the necessary means to challenge disciplinary assumptions made about oral histories in language and literature contexts. I’m not sure where else I would have gotten this initial training and it has left me longing to learn even more.

For me, I felt like the Institute could have gone on for another two weeks and I’m not sure that I would have tired of the group of people that were brought together a year ago. Not only was it a pleasure to learn with and from the other scholars, but the selection of folks in terms of career level and path brought in perspectives made the experience for me as a graduate student quite formative. In this way, I felt like the learning environment was reciprocal.