Podcast: Vincent Brown, “Designing Histories of Slavery for the Database Age”

Multimedia scholarship invites reconsideration of how history has been, could be, and should be represented. By wrestling creatively and collectively with the difficult archival problems presented by social history of slavery, Harvard’s Vincent Brown hopes to chart new pathways for pondering history’s most painful and vexing subjects. This presentation considers three graphic histories of slavery — a web-based animation of Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, a cartographic narrative of the Jamaican slave revolt of 1760-61, and a web-based archive of enslaved family lineages in Jamaica and Virginia — that illustrate how the archive of slavery is more than the records bequeathed to us by the past; the archive also includes the tools we use to explore it, the vision that allows us to see its traces, and the design decisions that communicate our sense of history’s possibilities.

Multi-media historian Vincent Brown is Charles Warren Professor of History, Professor of African and African-American Studies, and Director of the History Design Studio at Harvard University. His research, writing, teaching, and other creative endeavors are focused on the political dimensions of cultural practice.