public humanities

After reading Syvia Wynter, I considered the concept of the human a lot more carefully—that is, the humanities in general. Post-secondary institutions continue to enact whiteness, particularly as less people of color make it to a post-secondary institution at all. So I think it's important to reach beyond the institution to engage folks that do not reside in these spaces. Even if they do reside in these places, certain programs/schools can isolate folks of color. At the moment, I see it as various forms of reaching beyond school walls, as a way to reach all genres of the human as Wynter notes.

The pandemic forced many shifts toward online interaction. During this time, I moved my syllabus to an online version and called it a websyllabus. Forms of online syllabus exist, where people can annotate or contribute. Similarly, scholars post their syllabi to share information with others. To hold myself accountable and to make it obvious what it is that I teach, I feel pretty excited about the websyllabus. I've heard the phrase teaching "behind closed doors." In other words, teachers may submit a lesson plan (at the K-12 level) to fulfill a requirement but teach in a manner that they feel suits students best. From this respect, the websyllabus teaches with open doors at all times.

A second approach that I took is constructing this website for myself and for others. Since I situate myself in rhet/comp, I prefer for people to know that I'm not close reading Aristotle or someone that's been removed from society for over two millenia. I'm not sure how that type of scholarship applies to contemporary conditions in a racialized society. Consequently, this website centers folks of color since folks of color constitute a major portion of the "public." In essence, rhet/comp doesn't have to be so white. If it tends to public needs, it should steer toward the needs of racialized bodies.

Lastly, I appreciate the work of scholars such as Talila A. Lewis, Adela Licona, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and Laura Segato. They reach toward the community surrounding their institutions to see what's needed from them. I'm hoping to attain this type of scholarly approach.

These various components to scholarship and teaching, at the moment, constitute the public humanities to me. It's something I'm striving to embody.


digital approaches

In the comic (H)afrocentric, Naima, a biracial protagonist, wants to fight gentrification, and she pursues this issue through a digital approach. She asserts, “I’m going to start my own anti-gentrification social networking site for black folks. I’ll call it mydiaspora.com.” Naima explains that black folks will combat gentrification by having the ability to relocate through the “virtual diaspora.” In a later pane, El, a Latino character, thinks to himself: “Hmm….mitierra.com.” In a subsequent issue of the comic, Naima’s website displays a map of the world. She exclaims, “Finally, the day has come, the one place in the world that is free of gentrification. The virtual world!” Naima’s plan seems to work in certain aspects, but also fails. The failures stem from her friend El who still worries about his family’s upcoming rent payment, and a neighbor passes away during a protest against gentrification in the neighborhood. Nevertheless, Naima provides insights into the digital approaches.

The map above isn't too complicated to make using Leaflet.js. At the moment, it's not performing much of an analysis because I only positioned the location of TCU and one of the first places I found in Fort Worth to eat pretty good Mexican food.

Yet, what's interesting about viewing this map is that spatial analysis immediately becomes more prominent. As Naima presents, the map as a digital approach can provide fruitful ground for analysis. For example, I wonder what type of demographics surround TCU in comparison to their enrolled demographics. In addition to an analysis, a map conveys a message differently than in alphabetic writing. In other words, the map, as a medium, works to redirect composing practices to include mapmaking as a method to deliver information efficiently and effectively—or maybe just differently.

While I've focused on mapmaking, digital approaches in general provide invigorating ways to approach issues in the humanities. Furthermore, it allows scholars to engage quantitative and qualitative approaches simultaneously. Consequently, I feel digital approaches will make a splash for another while longer.


josé luis cano jr.