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Friday, June 9 • 9:30am - 11:00am
The Puerto Rican Literature Project: Social Justice through DH

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The Proyecto de la literatura Puertorriqueña (PLPR)/Puerto Rican Literature Project is a forthcoming public-facing digital portal that makes poetry available through the gathering, transcription, translation and publication of poetic materials that until now have been physically archived in different collections, or not archived at all. The project was conceived as a means of consolidating, reflecting and responding to grass-roots community exchanges by Puerto Rican poets across all regions, as well as a means to make these voices available to poets and reading communities at large. Because the PLPR team understands that access should not be equated with the erasure of difference, they seek to actively decolonize the archive by recovering the voices and histories of Puerto Rican writers and by making thousands of poems available bilingually to scholars, educators, students and community members. Poetry in the portal covers a range of topics important to social justice, including culture, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, colonialism, language and environment. This panel will provide an overview of PLPR, its mission for social justice, and decolonial approaches to creating the portal, the use of bilingual metadata to increase discoverability and the elaboration of visualizations.

“Puerto Rican Literature and Institutional Marginalization”
As Megan Ward and Adrian S. Wisnicki point out in “The Archive after Theory,” physical archives are often framed by imperialist narratives and therefore limited in perspective, language and scope (201). This is especially pressing since Puerto Rico continues to struggle against the violence of US colonialism, and the diaspora grows exponentially in population size. In addition, the majority of Puerto Rican literature is still overlooked, understudied and under-published on the mainland . Many of the same barriers that existed for Puerto Rican writers in the seventies still exist today: lack of reviews, infrequent publication; and erasure of Puerto Rican history in the US history curriculum. At this moment, very few textbooks explore the history of Puerto Rican literature from the diaspora and the archipelago together over the last century. This presentation focuses on the cultural significance of Puerto Rican literature, how institutional racism has marginalized Puerto Rican literature, and the role PLPR plays in decolonizing the archives and literary canon.

“Decolonial Methods and US Latinx Digital Humanities”
This presentation focuses on the stakes of conducting digital humanities projects through the lens of US Latinx digital humanities in order to create decolonial methods that contest colonial narratives. Institutional archives have appropriated knowledge, mislabeled, and de-contextualized the histories of people of color, perpetuating a generational trauma that informs the representation of Latinx people in the United States. PLPR, as a public-facing project, has the potential to create a more inclusive understanding of literature and history. Furthermore, applying digital tools to underrepresented archives can amplify the complex voices of multiethnic histories and languages; exemplify the tensions between communities and formal institutions; recover ancestral voices; and offer the opportunity to re/write marginalized histories into the national discourse.

“Reaching Communities: Access, Metadata and Language”
In many instances, the US colonization of Puerto Rico has obscured or even erased Puerto Rican literary histories by prioritizing Western European writers and the English language. The PLPR portal disrupts this closed circle through centering the community as its audience. This presentation will focus on the use and challenges of employing bilingual metadata, keywords, translations and developing a public-facing portal. In order to help combat colonial displacement and invisibilization, poems and biographical entries about the poets will be published on the PLPR portal in both English and Spanish, while paying careful attention to those aspects that make each language incommensurable. As Virginia Held explains in The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, Global (2006), the application of an ethics of care to archiving ensures that researchers view the subjects in the archives, not as mere objects of study that serve academic purposes, but rather as people to whom we have a responsibility, whose emotions are acknowledged, valued, and appreciated. Thus, the project’s protocols also include responding to the needs of the community, such as display on different devices, focus group feedback and communicating with poets about translations and information included on the portal. Together, these approaches to data allow us to connect, rather than remove ourselves from the archive, and to value the differences between the private and public spheres. It creates a connection and produces more meaningful and respectful scholarship.

“Latine Digital Oral History Archives: Amplifying the Voices of Underrepresented Communities”
This presentation delves on the importance of conducting oral histories with underrepresented communities including best practices. It will provide insight on how to plan and conduct ethical oral histories collections in communities of color and highlight the importance of cultural awareness to maintain a respectful space at all stages of the interview process. The audience will consider the complexities and diverse nature of communities of color, for example Latina/os/x peoples, interviewing techniques in English and Spanish, transcribing, and archiving.

Works cited
Held, Virginia. The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, Global. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Ward, Megan and Adrian S. Wisnicki. “The Archive After Theory.” Debates in the Digital Humanities
2019 edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. University of Minnesota Press, 2019: 201.
wa Thiong'o, NGugi. Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. James Curry Ltd, 1986: 384.

avatar for Gabriela Baeza Ventura

Gabriela Baeza Ventura

Associate Professor & Executive Editor, University of Houston, United States of America
Gabriela Baeza Ventura is Associate Professor of Hispanic Literature in the Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston, where she teaches courses on US Latina/o literature for graduate and undergraduate students.  She is also Executive Editor for Arte Público Press, where she... Read More →
avatar for Lorena Gauthereau

Lorena Gauthereau

Digital Programs Manager, University of Houston
Dr. Lorena Gauthereau is the Digital Programs Manager for the US Latino Digital Humanities program at the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. She teaches interdisciplinary courses through UH’s Center for Mexican American Studies and served as... Read More →

Claire Jimenez

University of South Carolina

Friday June 9, 2023 9:30am - 11:00am EDT
PS 405 (Design Center)