A Colony in Crisis after Five Years

Digital Konbit in Practice

Kelsey Corlett-Rivera
Kelsey Corlett-Rivera
Head of the Research CommonsUniversity of Maryland LibrariesWebsiteRead Bio
Nathan Dize
Nathan Dize
Head of Mobile Strategy and InitiativesSmithsonian InstitutionRead Bio

“Konbit” is an expression in Haitian Creole that means to work together, collaboratively, to achieve a desired outcome. Haitian Studies scholar and digital humanist Marlene L. Daut interprets “konbit” to mean not only analog but also digital collaborations. Working together with undergraduate and graduate students, independent scholars, archivists, librarians, digital humanists, historians, and literary scholars we have created and maintained A Colony in Crisis, a digital history project about colonial Haiti, for the last five years. The Colony in Crisis project sprang from our desire to get digitized French revolutionary pamphlets, which had not seen much use, into the hands of undergraduate students. In consultation with Dr. Jen Guiliano, right here in MITH, we planned out a site that would serve up translated excerpts of key pamphlets, along with historical background, much like an online document reader. The site now includes 3 issues of translated pamphlets, background notes written by undergrads as a class assignment, and Haitian Creole translations, with accompanying audio. This talk will discuss how the concept of “konbit” has been incorporated into our work on A Colony in Crisis, specifically in our classroom interventions and collaborative working arrangements. In this presentation, we will share lessons learned and future plans on the site’s 5th anniversary and beyond.

Kelsey Corlett-Rivera is the head of the Research Commons and Librarian for the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Maryland, where she is also Affiliate Associate Professor at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. As Head, she is responsible for the majority of the University Libraries’ initiatives targeting faculty members, graduate students, and researchers on campus. This includes campus partnership building, program development, and space planning, along with coordination among internal Library divisions providing services to this population. She is designer and editor of A Colony in Crisis, a digital history site featuring translated and curated French pamphlets from Saint Domingue. Kelsey has published in portal: Libraries and the Academy, sx archipelagos, and presented at ACRL, caribbean digital, and AADHum’s African American History, Culture, and Digital Humanities Conference. Most recently, she published a book chapter entitled “Virtual Peer-Mentoring Programs” in the well-received book The Globalized Library: American Academic Libraries and International Students, Collections, and Practices.

Nathan H. Dize is a PhD Candidate in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University where he specializes in Haitian literature and history. He is content curator, translator, and editor of the digital history project “A Colony in Crisis: The Saint-Domingue Grain Shortage of 1789”. With Siobhan Meï, Nathan co-edits the “Haiti in Translation” interview series for H-Haiti. His translation of Makenzy Orcel’s The Immortals (Les Immortelles, Zulma 2011) is under contract and forthcoming with SUNY Press and his translation of Louis Joseph Janvier’s Haiti for the Haitians (eds. Brandon R. Byrd, Nathan H. Dize, and Chelsea Stieber) is forthcoming with Liverpool University Press. He has published articles in the Journal of Haitian Studies, Francoshpères, sx archipelagos, and the Journal of Haitian History. He tweets @NathanHDize.


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