Sviatlana Fenichel on Digitizing Postcolonial Feminism

Attending the NWSA Conference in Atlanta presented me with an opportunity to talk about the undergraduate research experience that I am currently involved in at the Richard Stockton of New Jersey – the Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project. The Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project (SPSP) is a multi-platform digital humanities project organized by Professor Adeline Koh in collaboration with current and former Stockton students.

In my presentation titled “Digitizing Feminism in Singapore and Malaysia” I aimed to stress the two major aspects of the project: the professor-student collaboration and the difference of web-oriented research versus its traditional forms.

The SPSP incorporates multiple interfaces and popular web resources such as Prezi, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs, Zotero, Wikis and WordPress.  The use of the new media and technology in development of the Stockton Project allows for easy communication, discussion, and sharing ideas between the student-researchers, as well as it helps to foster collaborative, supportive relationship between its contributors.

Each year the project is intended to cover one of the numerous areas within Postcolonial studies. Postcolonial Feminism has been chosen the theme for the year 2010-2011. My project being one of the four thematically connected parts under the umbrella of the postcolonial feminism, I briefly covered the fundamentals of this movement .

Since I am still in the progress of conducting the research for my part of the project, I briefly touched on my topic and the ultimate goals that I envision as the final result of my research. My research project “Colonialism and Human Body,” explores the subject of “a colonized body” as a space for resistance in postcolonial literature through a comparative study of Nervous Conditions by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Breaking the Tongue by Singapore-born Vyvyane Loh.  Both postcolonial texts present a concept of the “body” which is used as a space for resistance in the case of Dangarembga’s protagonist or as a space for pain endurance in Loh’s literary text. Another aspect of my research that I am interested in is to explore the process of the body colonization through the lens of the contemporary world practice, known as “celebrity colonialism.” This recently coined concept tends to look into the way that famous personalities of the Western world use their fame in bizarre and disturbing ways to influence public institutions in the developing countries.

Another part of my presentation was devoted to comparing the process of conducting research for the Stockton Project with the traditional on-paper form of research. If in case of the traditional research one virtually has only words at his / her disposal, then the conditions of research for a web-project  allow for successful incorporation of various forms of media and visual devices. This significantly broadens the variety of resources that can be used. The easily created hyperlinks allow for useful reference to other sources within the Project’s boundaries and outside of it, while avoiding unnecessary repetition. I also stressed the innovative approach to under-graduate research that the SPSP presents. The Project encourages the inclusiveness of ideas while preserving the quality of the traditional research. While essentially based on the same scholarly and peer-reviewed sources that are used for a traditional on-paper research, the research conducted for a digital resource is brought to a different dimension. Being targeted at a public forum, the Stockton Project requires extra cautiousness and clarity in expressing ideas. At the same time the fact that the research is being conducted for a broad audience allows to introduce some new concepts and ways of thinking about the world otherwise unattainable for the particular audience.

In the summer of 2011 the SPSP was added to the MLA’s catalog of scholarly websites, which is a significant addition to the scholarly credibility of the undergraduate research project.

The presentation sparked interest among the audience.  Other NWSA Conference attendees who I engaged in the conversation with and to whom I mentioned the wonderful resource I am working on in collaboration with other students and Professor Koh from Stockton, unanimously expressed the wish to learn more about the Stockton Postcolonial Project.  Fortunately, being a web resource, the SPSP is easily accessible to anyone interested in the issues it covers.

I was very proud to represent the Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project at the National Women’s Studies Conference. Especially encouraging was to receive a positive feedback on the work that is being done in constructing the modern Web resource which the SPSP embodies. The overall reaction and comments about the SPSP proved that it is a very valuable digital humanities source, which will only grow in value as we move further towards highly computerized global learning community.

If you have any questions or comments follow Sviatlana Fenichel on Twitter. You can learn more about my overall experience at the NWSA Conference here. To read about an interesting session that I attended at the NWSA Conference that sparked a controversial discussion on veiling practices between a presenter and an attendee, please click here.



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