Digital Cultural History: A Roundtable

Endorsed by the German Historical Institute and the Oral History Association

Friday, April 3, 2020, 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Digital History; Social and Cultural


How does digital history, typically associated with macroscopic, cliometric, and statistical analysis at scale, relate to cultural history, which has often focused on finely grained inquiry into microlevel topics of artifactual close reading, questions of individual agency, and theoretical intricacies of how we even come to understand the past? This roundtable harnesses digital technology to screen five-minute videos from each panelist on their research and its implications for digital cultural history, followed by an opportunity for extended conversation among panelists and audience members. Where do digital and cultural history meet, if they do meet at all?

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Michael J. Kramer, College at Brockport, State University of New York
Michael J. Kramer works at the intersection of historical scholarship, cultural criticism, the arts, civic engagement, and digital technology. He is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at The College at Brockport, SUNY, outside Rochester, New York, and splits his time between there and Chicago. Kramer is the author of The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (Oxford University Press, 2013; paperback, 2017) as well as numerous essays and articles for publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, First of the Month, The National Memo, The Point, Theater, Newsday, and the US Intellectual History Blog. His current research includes a book-in-progress, This Machine Kills Fascists: Technology, Tradition, and Democratic Culture in the US Folk Music Revival, and a set of related digital and public history projects on the Berkeley Folk Music Festival and folk music on the West Coast. He teaches a wide range of courses in modern US history, cultural and intellectual history, history of technology, and digital and public history. Kramer blogs at Culture Rover and Issues in Digital History. His website can be found at Previously, he was an adjunct Professor of the Practice on the faculty of Middlebury College, where he served as Acting Director of the Digital Liberal Arts Initiative and taught history, American studies, and digital humanities. Prior to that, he was an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, where he taught history and American studies, co-founded NUDHL, the Northwestern University Digital Humanities Laboratory, and helped to design the Graduate Engagement Opportunities program at Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement. He has also worked as a dance and theater dramaturg and an editor in the Design, Publishing, and New Media Department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and at the website of the New York Times.

Panelist: Rhae Lynn Barnes, Princeton University
Rhae Lynn Barnes is Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University specializing in the history of North America with particular interests in the history of racism, book history, and representation in popular culture. Barnes earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University and B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the Princeton faculty, she held an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Digital Humanities at the University of Southern California’s Society of Fellows where she created an immersive digital humanities study abroad program “Sojourners: Black Popular Culture in Paris Noir from Sally Hemings to Beyoncé.” She is President-Elect of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at the University of Virginia and CEO of US History Scene (, which provides open access teaching resources to thousands of public schools in the United States. Her first book, Darkology: When the American Dream Wore Blackface, which maps the political, economic, and cultural geography of amateur blackface by laying bare its unstudied bibliographic history, received funding from the Library of Congress, the NEH, CLIR, and the Society for American Music. She is Executive Advisor with Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the four-part PBS documentary series “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” (airing April 2019).

Panelist: Maria Cotera, University of Michigan
Maria Cotera holds a PhD from Stanford University’s Program in Modern Thought, and an MA in English from the University of Texas. She is currently an associate professor in the Departments of Women’s Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan, where she is the Director of Latina/o Studies Program. She is the author of numerous articles on women of color intellectual genealogies and has served on the National Council for the American Studies Association (2007-2010), the governing board of the Latina/o Studies Association (2014-2015) and the program committee for the National Women’s Studies Association (2017-2018). Cotera's first book, Native Speakers: Ella Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, Jovita González, and the Poetics of Culture, (University of Texas Press, 2008) received the Gloria Anzaldúa book prize for 2009 from the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA). Professor Cotera is currently working on the Chicana por mi Raza, an online interactive archive of oral histories and material culture documenting Chicana Feminist praxis from 1965-1985. She is the lead curator for two public history exhibits: Las Rebeldes: Stories of Strength and Struggle in southeast Michigan (2013) and Chicana Fotos: Nancy De Los Santos (2017).

Panelist: Jessica Marie Johnson, Johns Hopkins University
Jessica Marie Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Johns Hopkins University.
Her work has appeared in Slavery & Abolition, The Black Scholar, Meridians: Feminism, Race and Transnationalism, American Quarterly, Social Text, The Journal of African American History, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Forum Journal, Bitch Magazine, Black Perspectives (AAIHS), Somatosphere and Post-Colonial Digital Humanities (DHPoco). Johnson is a historian of Atlantic slavery and the Atlantic African diaspora. She is the author of Practicing Freedom: Black Women, Intimacy, and Kinship in New Orleans Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, under contract). She is co-editor with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University) of Black Code: A Special Issue of the Black Scholar (2017), a collection of work exploring the field of Black Code Studies and editor of Slavery in the Machine: sx:archipelagos (forthcoming). She is founding curatrix at African Diaspora, Ph.D. or #ADPhD (, co-organizer of the Queering Slavery Working Group with Dr. Vanessa Holden (University of Kentucky), a member of the LatiNegrxs Project (, and a Digital Alchemist at the Center for Solutions to Online Violence (

Panelist: Scott Saul, University of California, Berkeley
Scott Saul is Professor of English at UC-Berkeley, where he teaches courses in 20th- and 21st-century American cultural history. His first book, Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties (Harvard UP, 2003), traced the emergence of a new aesthetic and a new audience for jazz in the 1950s and 1960s. His second book, Becoming Richard Pryor (HarperCollins, 2014), was the first thoroughly-researched biography of the groundbreaking comedian and was longlisted for the PEN Biography Prize. He has created, or supervised the creation of, a number of digital humanities projects: “Richard Pryor’s Peoria” (, a highly curated digital companion to the biography which offers a portrait of city in transition as well as of a black family enmeshed in that city’s underground economy; "The Berkeley Revolution," a rich archive of the many social and cultural movements that developed in that city in the late-1960s and 1970s; and "The Godfather: Anatomy of a Film", a multi-dimensional exploration of that film's artistry.

Panelist: Lauren Tilton, University of Richmond
Lauren Tilton is an Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in the Department of Rhetoric & Communication Studies at the University of Richmond and Research Fellow in the University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL). Her research focuses on the politics of representation in 20th century U.S. visual culture using digital humanities methods. She is co-editor of theAmerican Quarterly Special Issue on Digital Humanities. She has published inArchive Journal, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, and Programming Historianwith pieces forthcoming in the Journal of American History and Debates in the Digital Humanities. She is a director of Photogrammar, a digital public humanities project about New Deal and World War II photography, and the co-author ofExploring Humanities Data in R: Exploring Networks, Geospatial Data, Images and Texts. Service to the community includes a two-year term as the Northeast American Studies Association’s Regional Representative to the ASA as well as current Chair of the American Studies Association (ASA) Digital Humanities Caucus. She received her PhD in American Studies from Yale University.