We are thrilled and grateful to have two fabulous postdocs working on the project, in dance history and digital humanities respectively. Their formal bios appear on the main page, but we asked them to say a bit more about themselves and how they came to Dunham's Data.
Takiyah Nur Amin
I am a scholar who enjoys archival research. I was formally introduced to archival work in dance studies when I was a master’s student, interning at the Dance Heritage Coalition in Washington, DC, which – ironically – had just gotten access to several boxes of unprocessed materials related to Dunham’s work from one of her warehouses in East St. Louis. Later, during doctoral studies, I was exposed to the riches of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Research Culture in New York City. When compiling information for Brenda Dixon-Gottschild’s book, Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina, I was confronted with conducting research in the yet-to-be-processed Philadelphia Dance Collection at Temple University’s Paley Library. These projects showed me how, more than simple repositories, archives often carry within them primary sources that can unlock, complicate or problematize historical narratives about any given period. In addition, the politics of what and how items are preserved interests me as much as the silences -- or what is absent -- from any particular collection.
My curiosity about what it might mean to access Dunham’s legacy and work through digital methods drew me to Dunham’s Data. I wanted to know what a project at the intersection of digital humanities - which I know very little about - and dance studies -- might generate. Dunham’s Data interests me because of its possibilities: this project has the potential to contribute meaningfully to the existing body of knowledge on Dunham’s work, model a kind of rigorous ethical framework in the crafting of data sets for research, and demonstrate how digital methods can amplify traditional research in dance studies and related disciplines. Additionally, Dunham’s Data holds within the scope of the project opportunities to engage people within and beyond the academy who have been keepers of the flame of the Dunham legacy, ensuring that those with critical investments in her work will benefit from the intellectual and scholarly contributions herein. For these reasons, I am excited to bring my expertise in black dance studies and my skills in archival and oral history to the team making Dunham’s Data a reality. I’m looking forward to developing a curriculum to bring this material into the classroom.
My name’s Antonio, from Seville (Spain). I understand digital humanities as a discipline where computational methods are applied to solve humanities problems, and I come to my role as Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Research Assistant for the Dunham’s Data project as a researcher and data scientist. To reach this point in my professional career, I did my Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering and my Master’s in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Seville, and then moved to London (Canada) for my PhD in Hispanic Studies at Western University. Since 2011, I’ve worked in the Cultureplex Lab, a multidisciplinary facility at Western that does research on digital humanities with a strong emphasis on cultural analytics and digital innovation. Throughout this work, I’m a human-centered kind of researcher—my main interests lie in digital approaches to society and culture. I have collaborated on projects from a wide range of areas such as art, literature, business, psychology, indigenous people, social media, food, creativity, and storytelling communities.
Working in Dunham’s Data represents a new challenge to me. I’m keen on theater and dance, but had never had the chance to approach them professionally before. The way I see it, dance history can benefit from digital humanities’ theory, method, and practice, and in turn, can contribute new forms of knowledge exchange that draws networks of artistic and cultural transmission through bodies’ mobility. As a data scientist and researcher, I’m putting all my expertise in analyzing Katherine Dunham’s historical data, exploring new questions, interpreting the results, and presenting them in meaningful ways to reach and respond to the scholarly audience effectively. I’m really thrilled to work in this exciting project with Kate, Harmony, and Takiyah.