• How Shall We Represent Their Lives? The Enslaved Community Owned and Sold by the Maryland Province Jesuits

    Sharon Leon (see profile)
    Linked Open Data
    Slavery, History, Linked data, Social networks
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Intentionally Digital, Intentionally Black2018
    Conf. Org.:
    African American History, Culture, and Digital Humanities (AADHum)
    Conf. Loc.:
    University of Maryland, College Park
    Conf. Date:
    October 19-20
    aadhum2018, History of slavery, Linked open data
    Permanent URL:
    In 1838 Thomas Mulledy, S.J. signed his name to an agreement selling the 275 enslaved persons who resided on Jesuit-owned estates in Southern Maryland to Louisiana. The sale served as the culmination of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus’s fraught experience with slaveholding in the colonial and early national period. While much historical work has been written on Jesuit slaveholding, that writing has primarily focused on the implications for the religious community and the moral universe in which these men made their decisions about slavery. Thus far, however, no scholar has studied the enslaved people themselves. My work in the Jesuit Plantation Project focuses on the lives and experiences of the enslaved, rather than on their Jesuit owners. Focusing on the enslaved community itself makes this project ideally suited for digital methods. I employ linked open data and an array of techniques to visualize the entire community of enslaved people and their relationships to one another across space and time. Working with these digital methodologies opens up a host of important questions about their appropriate application to the history of enslavement and the representation of the enslaved. Social network analysis and visualization offers some promise, but also raises a host of difficulties that I will explore in this paper: What does it mean to apply social network analysis measures to a community that is bounded and has very little control over their inclusion/movement? With a significantly incomplete data set, what is the threshold at which social network analysis makes sense? How can we mitigate against erasing the significance of these individuals in an effort to provide an aggregated view of their community? How can historians best integrate these techniques with traditional narrative interpretation to provide users with a rich understanding of the lives of an (this) enslaved community?
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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