Designing Empire

Screenshot of map from Designing Empire site

Designing Empire / Diseñando Imperios is a pedagogical project led by Mirzam Pérez (Spanish, Grinnell College). Students in a senior seminar built the Designing Empire website through a series of scaffolded assignments that introduced them to various digital humanities tools. Beginning with an exercise in the interpretation of texts, students used NVivo to compare and contrast word usage and thematic content in two colonial texts. Next, using TimeMapper.js, students plotted texts and artifacts pertinent to a chosen Spanish American colonial community and shared their presentations with the class. For the final project students chose a colonial city as a subject for in-depth research, focusing on early modern visual and textual representations of the city. They curated these images and texts to create an Omeka exhibit that displayed both the texts produced by the colonizers, including but not limited to images, written texts, and spatial representations of the imperial cities, as well as indigenous products that present alternative conceptions of time and space. By the end of the semester, the class presented their Omeka website revealing original and competing analyses of representations of early modern Spanish Atlantic cities.

Designing Empire allows us the possibility of visualizing and mapping the early modern world. It invites scholars to understand the complexities of this moment in time, promoting an awareness of how this is not a world that is gathering dust in the archive, but continues to be very much alive and a part of our world. Mapping and visualizing the early modern Spanish Empire beyond the printed page uncovers important resonances in the social, cultural, economic, and political experiences of the people and nations of its former colonies.

Pérez expects this website not only to serve as an ongoing project in upper level Spanish classes to introduce students to the use of DH tools in the study of early modern texts and places, but also to be as a resource for other researchers and scholars beyond Grinnell College.

Mirzam Pérez was a participant in the 2015 Digital Bridges Summer Institute, the 2016 Digital Bridges Summer Institute, and the the 2017 Digital Bridges Summer Institute. She was the Digital Bridges Obermann Fellow for Fall 2017. This project involved the participation of Grinnell students Alex Claycomb (Research Assistant and DH Student Mentor), Prisca Kim (Student Collaborator), Jason Camey, Moises Gaither-Ganim, Taz Grout, Lex Mundell, Megan Settle, Jesús Villalobos, and Paige Wheeler. The project was carried out in collaboration with Mike Conner and Rachel Schnepper of Grinnell’s Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative and with the support of the Elkes Foundation.