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Undergraduate Fellows

Introducing Mellon DH Undergraduate Fellow: Arlette Hernandez

We are thrilled to announce a new program in our DH initiative at W&L: the Mellon Digital Humanities Undergraduate Fellowship. We have two fellows for the Winter term who will be developing their own DH projects. They will be blogging regularly on their progress. Check out Arlette’s first post below!


Hello! My name is Arlette Hernandez and I am a sophomore English major and Creative Writing minor from Jacksonville, Florida. I am one of the two undergraduate recipients of the Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship and my project is tentatively called “Lions, Jungles, and Natives: Colonialism and the Individual’s Perception of Africa in 1929.” I got the idea for this project after taking an African History course and working with special collections materials from a Vassar professor’s 1929 trip to the Eastern states of the African continent. I was stunned by the content of the five photograph albums, but even more so by the language and overwhelming presence of tropes. There is no continent more essentialized than Africa and this is largely the product of colonialism. The goal of my project is to discuss the problematic legacy of three centuries of imperialism while shedding light on issues of implicit bias and flawed, or even absent, cultural appreciation.

Moving forward, I plan to transcribe Professor Hills’ diaries and analyze the photos and films in the collection, paying close attention to how the Western eye constructs Africa. The final product of my research will be a digital exhibit that synthesizes the textual and visual materials of the Hills collection through a process of mapping. One of the maps will details Professor Hills’ journey and the other will track the use of visual tropes in the films and photographs. I would also like to build a representation of the Africa imagined by the West to demonstrate how it contrasts with reality. Ultimately, I want to make these materials more accessible to the public while increasing awareness about rampant and uncontrollable preconceptions that are born from history and continued with each passing generation.

This program is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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