I was particularly struck by how Klein discusses the idea of notable and observable absences in archival materials, such as the voices of slaves in Jefferson's archive. To me, it feels like a more concrete way of discussing and critiquing the selection bias I have been concerned about since the start of the semester and have kept coming back around to. Klein describes theses absences, saying "its shadowy form, the ghost captures a sense of what is palpable, yet cannot be fully grasped. In its lingering presence, the ghost conjures a sense of the haunting of the present by the past" (666). I feel like this is a perfect way to think about certain selection biases. For example, we discussed last week the idea of post-colonial digital humanities and the default archival of canonical writers and voices. In instances such as that, the absence of voices and perspectives from people of color and other minorities is aparent, and we can usually pinpoint that something feels off, even if we aren't consciously sure what that something is. This is also an instance of the past haunting the present, in a way, as decisions made to exclude these perspectives from the archive and the canon have carried forward into the present, consciously or not, and could potentially harm the discourse. I can see how digital humanities and network maps are particularly useful here, as showing the communications networks between Jefferson and his aquantances highlights the gaps and degrees of separation between himself and the enslaved people in his sphere of influence.
Ghost in the Archive
Submitted by Harrison Brockwell on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:44