Our take on Digital Humanities
Computers and the Internet have radically changed the way we study, learn, research and write. It won’t come as a surprise that this very phenomenon has triggered a wave of research and publications especially in the last thirty years. It has led to intense debates on the role and place of Digital Humanities (DH) in academia. DH have been presented either as a revolutionary discipline or a mere technological tool for researchers. Even though a growing number of African universities and research centres have been developing projects related to DH, this conversation has, until now, largely been circumscribed to rich universities located mostly in Western countries. At the same time, the development of Internet connections in African cities, the democratization of IT equipment and the growing access to material published online have opened new alleys to produce original data, have worldwide academic discussions and create a more open field of publishing. Disciplinary and political barriers are being crossed by more and more researchers willing to collaborate on joint projects.
With this picture in mind, IFRA-Nigeria has decided to launch a new ambitious programme on Digital Humanities located in Nigeria.
In 2021, we launched a new Resource Centre in the place of our current library that make availables:
- academic literature on Nigeria and West Africa accessible on an online catalogue;
- a large number of grey-literature documents that we intend to gradually digitize;
- a Digital Lab that will offer access to several technologies and training to scholars in order to help them enhance their research with DH tools.
At the same time, we want to reflect on the way DH can be used in researching African contexts and dynamics without focusing solely on the technical dimension of what remains too often a technology-driven conversation. We reject the fetishization of technological tools and believe that DH are not only about fast computers and latest technologies which remain unaffordable for most researchers, particularly in Africa. We also recognise that technology is never neutral and can be used in a lopsided way. Tools should not dictate the way we undertake research but they can help us reshape our research questions in a more inclusive, bottom-up and critical way. We intend to organise regularly workshops and conferences to critically reflect on DH in African context, particularly in line with the current global conversation on the decolonization of knowledge.
Several projects on DH are currently conducted at IFRA-Nigeria:
- Nigeria Watch is an online database that, since 2006, monitors violence in Nigeria in order to provide statistics, analyse trends and draw maps.
- NaijaSynCor is a ground-breaking Franco-Nigerian corpus-based macro-syntactic study of Naija (Nigerian Pidgin).
- Naija Archives is a project that aims at facilitating the protection and accessibility of Nigerian historical heritage and making available to the public a wealth of public and private documents.