Argument, Form, and Method: Lessons Learned from Three Digital Dissertations in History

Thursday, April 2, 2020, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Digital History; Theory and Methodology


This session brings together three early career scholars and members of their committees for demonstrations and discussion about digital dissertations in history. This panel highlights advantages and challenges involved in digital work for the dissertation and is part of conversations within the field about the contributions of “digital history” to historical scholarship.

Session Participants

Chair: Suzanne Smith, George Mason University
Suzanne E. Smith received her Ph.D. from Yale University. She specializes in African American history with a particular interest in exploring how the history of African American entrepreneurship can transform our understanding of African American culture. Her current research agenda focuses on the history of African American religion in modern America. She regularly teaches courses in African American history, American popular music, and civil rights and citizenship. Her first book, Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit (Harvard University Press, 1999), examines Motown and its relationship to the black community of Detroit and the civil rights movement. Rolling Stone magazine, in conjunction with BMI and New York University, awarded Dancing in the Street third prize in the 2000 Ralph Gleason Music Book Award competition for excellence in writing about popular music. Her second book, To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010), explores the central role of funeral directors in African American life and was a finalist for Best Non-Fiction at the Library of Virginia’s 14th Annual Literary Awards.

Panelist: Madeleine Casad, Vanderbilt University Center for Digital Humanities
Madeleine Casad is the Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities, and teaches in Vanderbilt’s Department of Cinema and Media Arts. She is also an affiliated faculty member of Vanderbilt’s Comparative Media Analysis and Practice joint-PhD Program. Casad coordinates and leads digital humanities scholarship and teaching at Vanderbilt. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, she developed digital humanities education and fellowship programs for humanities graduate students at Cornell University as member of Cornell Library’s Department of Digital Scholarship and Preservation Services and a founding member of Cornell’s cross-institutional Digital Humanities Collaboratory. In 2012, she successfully defended one of Cornell University’s first comparative media dissertations.

Panelist: Zoe Genevieve LeBlanc, Scholars' Lab
Zoe LeBlanc is a PhD Candidate in History at Vanderbilt University and a Digital Humanities Developer at the Scholars' Lab at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation, "Cairo Calling: The United Arab Republic, Revolutionary Media, and Global Anti-Colonialism in the 1950s and 60s", uses computational methods to explore Cairo's role in, and vision for global anti-colonialism. This project makes visible how, within the U.A.R., news media was a key battleground for Cold War and Third World politics, as well as new revolutionary national projects and identities.

Panelist: Michael O'Malley, George Mason University

Panelist: Celeste Tuong Vy Sharpe, Carleton College
Celeste Tường Vy Sharpe is the Academic Technologist for Instructional Technology at Carleton College, where she works on digital projects with faculty and staff across campus that infuse technology into the curriculum. She received her PhD in History from George Mason University for her born-digital dissertation project titled “They Need You! Disability, Visual Culture, and the Poster Child, 1945-1980,” which argues that poster child imagery is vital for understanding the pervasiveness of the idea of disability as diagnosis and how that understanding marginalized political avenues and policies outside of disease eradication in 20th century America.

Panelist: Jeri Elizabeth Wieringa, George Mason University
Jeri E. Wieringa is a PhD Candidate in History at George Mason University and was previously the Digital Publishing Production Lead with the George Mason University Libraries. Her dissertation, “A Gospel of Health and Salvation: Modeling the Religious Culture of Seventh-day Adventism, 1843-1920,” uses topic modeling to argue that cycles of end-times expectation and the religious leadership of Ellen White contributed to the formation of a religious culture marked by domestic authority, cooperative organization, and the activism of women.