Nepal, a Shangri-La? Narratives of Culture, Contact, and Memory

Tika Lamsal, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Language, has published a co-edited a new book (with Deepak Shimkhada, Iswari Pandey, and Santosh Khadka; Mandala Book Point, 2022).

by Tika Lamsal

We conceived this anthology of narratives in 2019 with the launch of a website, Nepal Memory Project. The website, which is still active today, was exclusively dedicated to collecting a broad range of essays that were eventually compiled under the title, Nepal, a Shangri-La? Narratives of Culture, Contact, and Memory.

While assembling this volume that has over four dozen contributors, and which focuses on micro-narratives about Nepal, we wondered about the power of memory, and its role in crafting narratives, as we try to make sense of our identity and belonging in an interconnected world. We also wondered about ideas that bring Nepalis and non-Nepalis together: how does the space—that Himalayan country—in both geo-political and cultural terms bind us together? Our starting point was to pose a series of questions to our contributors as we invited them to describe and think about the most salient experiences or memories that represented the country for them. We were interested in how those personal narratives related to the master narratives of the nation, i.e., how they echoed, contested, or resonated with the constructs promoted by the powers that be.

Going by the master narratives of Nepal, we see a careful selection of historically verifiable facts and some imagined ideals. For example, the country is the oldest nation-state in South Asia, as the Himalayan nation was never directly colonized. It is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, and the land of the Himalayas – actually, the only country with eight of the ten highest mountains in the world. Nepal is also a country with a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna, peoples, traditions, and stupas or temples at virtually every step of the way. It is the home of the Gurkha soldiers whose stories of bravery are told and retold around the world. Untouched by outside influences until recently, it is the Shangri-La that we know of that could potentially function as an antidote to human despair borne off industrialization.

These are the attributes most frequently used to construct a grand narrative about the nation of Nepal, often coupled with the phrase sundar, shanta, bishal (beautiful, peaceful, great), which, as in the case of any nation-state, conveniently leaves out the details that undercut or challenge it. One way to explore the complexity of the lived nation and its memory would be to look back at the experience of various engagements in the space under discussion, engagements that could be as uniquely personal and intimate as growing up within it or as purposeful and strategic as traveling from outside to work, study/research or both. Our assumption has been that “re-membering” and writing about these experiences will not only reveal some complex stories about the nation but also provide specific insights into life, culture, community, citizenship, nation, labor, education, history, memory, mobility, and even (post-)modernity in the 21st century of global interconnectedness.

As this anthology shows, we have multiple Nepals within the geographical boundaries of the nation-state, as is the case with any multicultural, multilingual nation-state. Rephrasing Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy – especially their discussions of English identity—one could argue that it is reductive to discuss Nepali national identity or the forms of national belonging without taking into account the ways in which Nepali identity itself has often been defined through the exclusion of a range of “others” in terms of language and customs. By the same token, Nepali identity has been denied the rights and privileges of equality of recognition until recently in the country’s laws and constitutions. Even the notion of singular Nepalese identity becomes an oxymoron for some authors, such as Shabnam Koirala-Azad, Sonya Dios, and Khushbu Mishra (in this volume), who share their experiences of negotiating their Nepali identity as the “other” even while living within the geo-political space of Nepal. Their narratives challenge the dominant narratives of Nepal while other authors recount their negotiations from multiple locations, both from within and without Nepal’s geographical boundaries. This multi-locational, and multi-subjective challenge to a singular prescribed Nepali identity is the main goal of our anthology of narratives.

Affective Engagement in #StopAAPIHate on Social Media: The Role of Emotion in Driving Engagement for Counter-hate Content on Twitter

Zifei Fay Chen (Communication Studies, CAS), June Y. Lee (Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Strategy, and International Business, SOM), Shan Wang (Data Science, CAS), Diane Woodbridge (Data Science, CAS)


Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic in early 2020, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities have experienced an uptick of anti-AAPI discrimination, racism, and hate incidents. These hate incidents range from individual acts of shunning, verbal harassment, and physical attacks, to civil rights violations including refusal of service and workplace discrimination. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a total of 10,905 anti-AAPI incidents were reported from March 19, 2020 to December 31, 2021, causing significant detrimental impact on AAPI persons’ mental health. Importantly, scholars and activists have noted that these anti-AAPI hate incidents are not only associated with the anti-AAPI rhetoric during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also have their historical roots of anti-AAPI discrimination and racism, such as the “perpetual foreigners” and “Yellow Peril” stigmas, as well as the “model minority” myth that was used to delegitimaze and silence concerns from the AAPI communities.  

To cope with racial trauma, many AAPI persons have turned to social media to view related content, share information, participate in online communities/forums, and join discussions. Besides being a coping tool, social media can  also be a tool to advocate for counter-hate messages and facilitate social movement.  Previous social media research has highlighted the role of emotion, where it was suggested that by engaging with emotion-carrying content on social media, people can better regulate their emotions and reconstruct their emotional episodes. In this Interdisciplinary Action Group project supported by CRASE, we set out to explore if and how emotion may drive engagement in counter-hate content on Twitter during the #StopAAPIHate movement. 

We drew insights from the emotion theories, social media engagement literature, and used machine learning and computational methods to analyze data. To delineate a more nuanced understanding, we focused on two types of frameworks in our categorization and analyses of emotion: (1) the valence approach where emotion was categorized into positive, negative, and neutral, and (2) the discrete approach where emotion was further categorized into joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. 

Data Collection

Using Twitter API for Academic Research, we collected tweets between January 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021. The retrieval search criteria included 1) tweets written in English and 2) tweets with at least one of the following hashtags: #StopAAPIhate, #StopAsianhate,  #IAmNotAVirus, #WashTheHate, #RacismIsAVirus, #IAmNotCovid19, #BeCool2Asians, and #HateIsAVirus, resulting in a total of 1,773,683 tweets. 

To identify sentiment (negative, positive, and neutral) and the existence of six discrete emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise) in the tweets, we used the RoBERTa model, the robustly optimized Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) Pre-training Approach. 

We then applied the developed models for sentiment/valence analysis and discrete emotion classification. Further, we developed a regression model and applied feature importance to understand the valence and discrete emotions affecting the level of engagement (likes, retweets, and replies) towards a tweet.

Preliminary Findings

Emotional valence reflected in the counter-hate content on Twitter

Among all tweets collected, about 22.7% were negative, 25.3% were positive, and 52% were neutral. In this analysis, one tweet may only include one valence. 

Discrete emotions reflected in counter-hate content on Twitter

Among the tweets collected, about 21.5% contained anger, 17.4% contained sadness, 11.9% contained joy, 5% contained disgust, 2.1% contained fear, and 1% contained surprise. In this analysis, a single tweet may include multiple emotions or no emotion. 

The impact of emotional valence and discrete emotions on social media engagement

Emotional valence was a moderate predictor of the number of favorites, retweets, and replies, along with other tweet features including hashtag counts, referencing another tweet, multimedia attachment, and replying to other users. For discrete emotions, the emotion of anger, sadness, and disgust were predictors of the number of favorites, retweets, and replies, along with other tweet features including hashtag count, referencing another tweet, multimedia attachment, and replying to other users. Particularly for replies, joy was also shown as a predictor in driving the volume of replies. 

Next Steps and Implications

The current stage of the project has demonstrated the features that drive engagement in counter-hate content on Twitter. For the next steps of the study, we will continue building models that inform the direction and magnitude of the effects specifically from each emotional valence and discrete emotion. Using these research insights, we hope to achieve a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the effects from emotional valence and discrete emotions in driving further engagement in counter-hate content. And in order to achieve this engagement, we will provide greater empirical communication evidence from the large data set to further support the #StopAAPIHate movement on social media.

Teaching Social Justice: Critical Issues for the Intercultural Communication Classroom

Brandi Lawless, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies, has co-authored a new book with Yea-Wen Chen of San Diego State University.


By Brandi Lawless

The motivation for my new co-authored book is three-fold. First, Intercultural Communication is one of the top 3 most-offered communication classes across the country, often fulfilling Core/General Education requirements for cultural diversity. However, most instructors who teach the class are only taught how to teach Public Speaking (if they receive pedagogical training at all) and are not specifically taught intercultural communication, which is quite different. Second, some instructors are even handed the class because they look “intercultural,” which unfairly saddles instructors of color and international instructors with additional pedagogical burdens without having excellent resources with which to teach this class. Third, even for the most experienced and knowledgeable instructors, the intercultural communication classroom can be an emotionally and intellectually heavy place for many students and teachers, like other classes that also fulfill our Cultural Diversity (CD) requirement. Sensitive topics arise and students must face complex issues with intellectual curiosity and collegial respect. To navigate the precarious waters of intercultural communication, teachers need an intentional, proactive approach to foster meaningful discussion and learning.

After struggling to teach this type of course and navigate the difficult conversations in each class, my co-author and I created this book as a sort of pedagogical guide. Each chapter presents conceptual overviews, student activities, and problem-solving strategies for teaching intercultural communication. We work our way through eight categories of potential conflict, including: communicating power and privilege, community engagement in social justice, and assessing intercultural pedagogies for social justice. In addition to empirical studies and our own classroom experiences, our book features personal narratives of junior and senior intercultural communication teacher-scholars whose journeys will encourage and instruct readers towards more fulfilling teaching experiences. We wrote this book so that anyone could pick it up and have a stronger foundation for teaching these topics. It is well suited for new and continuing instructors of courses that teach about culture, diversity, and social justice (particularly Intercultural Communication) and for graduate students learning how to teach these topics.

I’m excited to use the principles of this book in my own teaching, more intentionally. I have yet to teach Intercultural Communication since the publication of the book, but have been rethinking the content and structure for the next time I teach the course. I’m anxious to hear feedback from others and to continue to grow in my pedagogical approach.





Philosophy in the American West, A Geography of Thought

Picture of Gerard KuperusUSF Associate Professor of Philosophy, Gerard Kuperus, published a co-edited volume (with Brian Treanor and Josh Hayes, Routledge, 2020) about philosophy in our part of the world—the American West. Cities such as San Francisco and Seattle could be considered to be the contemporary equivalent of Ancient Athens, certainly in terms of its wealth, and possibly also as a place ideal for thinking. While Athens was influenced by Asia to the East, the West Coast of the USA is in dialogue with Asian traditions to the West, Europe to the East, Latin America to the south, and is home to indigenous philosophies. The American West as this meeting ground for different traditions can be seen as a fertile basis for philosophy and it is this insight that provides the philosophical background to Philosophy in the American West.

The project started with the 10th anniversary meeting of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). The conference took place in 2018 in Yosemite and was organized around the theme “Thinking in the West.” PACT is an organization co-founded by Kuperus and has brought together philosophers from different traditions (including Asian and Indigenous), artists, and writers. As a West Coast organization PACT has always emphasized place even while it has attracted scholars from all parts of the country as well as Europe and Asia. In many ways the book is the result of the collaborations that PACT has engaged in during its first decade.

Philosophy in the American West explores the physical, ecological, cultural, and narrative environments associated with the western United States, reflecting on the relationship between people and the places that sustain them.

The American West has long been recognized as having significance. From Crèvecoeur’s early observations in Letters from an American Farmer (1782), to Thoreau’s reflections in Walden (1854), to twentieth-century thoughts on the legacy of a vanishing frontier, “the West” has played a pivotal role in the American narrative and in the American sense of self. But while the nature of “westernness” has been touched on by historians, sociologists, and, especially, novelists and poets, this collection represents the first attempt to think philosophically about the nature of “the West” and its influence on us. The contributors take up thinkers that have been associated with Continental Philosophy and pair them with writers, poets, and artists of “the West.” And while this collection seeks to loosen the cords that tie philosophy to Europe, the traditions of “continental” philosophy—phenomenology, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and others—offer deep resources for thinking through the particularity of place.

The book contains twelve original chapters, including (besides the chapter and co-written introduction by Kuperus) two contributions from other USF faculty: Amanda Parris (Philosophy) and Marjolein Oele (Philosophy).

For more information:

The Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT):

The Art of Insurrection

Pedro Lange-Churión and John Zarobell

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd and the public has seen, at long last, that our justice system is capable of prosecuting and punishing police officers who brutalize black and brown bodies. This decision can in no way reconcile the injustices faced by minorities in this country. Indeed, during the trial, it was reported that on average three people of color per day are killed by police officers in the United States. This story is not resolved but the protests against police violence that took place over the summer of 2020 and the civil disorder that resulted have also reignited a creative legacy of protest art that has been a key element of social protest movements around the world and in the Bay Area.

This piece, a collaboration between us, was an effort to capture the political divides in this country as they emerge on the contested streets of Oakland. The rifts left by Donald Trump’s efforts to drag the country away from any social progress we might have achieved over the last 100 or so years frames both, the civil unrest and our efforts to read it through the renegade public art that materialized in the very center of the city. We aimed to create a dialectic between images and texts about the city, about racial politics, and about the revolutionary efforts to demand rights for all people and to assert, above all, that Black Lives Matter.

Here is an excerpt from the article:


Street sign painted with text "Floydway"
Photo: Pedro Lange-Churión

You had such a vision of the street                                                 As the street hardly understands —T.S. Eliot, Preludes


This renaming to Floydway marks the street as a site of trauma. Floyd himself looks on. It is a moment of discontinuity that generates a new symbolic, an intervention against the reality of the power and violence of the state, manifested in the planning and maintenance of the city. Rancière calls this dissensus, this break in consciousness that emerges from the rewriting of the street in the name of those subverted by it. The subversive laughter brings out an unintended response to the city as it is.

Citation and link to the full article:

Lange-Churión, Pedro, and John Zarobell. “Report from Oakland: The Art of Insurrection.” Theory & Event 23, no. 5 (2020): S-110-S-126.

Academic Risk and Freedom in Dangerous Times Interdisciplinary Action Group Plan

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[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]Stephen Zunes (Professor, Politics), Susan Katz (Professor, International & Multicultural Education) & Aaron Hahn Tapper (Professor, Theology & Religious Studies)

Since the three of us have been teaching and writing for many years about human rights issues, including those involving the Palestinians, we all have been watching in dismay as scholars expressing public criticism of Israeli state policy violating such international legal norms are being branded as ‘anti-Semitic.’ In the process, scholars have been censored, forbidden from speaking at conferences, and/or even denied tenure at their universities. As faculty in the humanities and social sciences, we are generally encouraged and obligated to expose and condemn human rights violations as they occur both in our own backyard as well as in countries around the world.

Criticisms of human rights abuses by U.S. allies have often been met with pushback; yet human rights opponents have been particularly successful in squelching criticisms of Israel, the world’s only predominantly Jewish country.  Raising concerns about Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention principles in regard to occupation along with many other international human rights norms often leads to accusations of bias against the Jewish people and undermining their survival as a people (even if we are Jewish ourselves).  This phenomenon seems particularly acute in institutions of higher education in the U.S., where supporters of Israel’s right-wing government have wielded unusually strong political influence. Our Center for Research, Artistic and Scholarly Excellence (CRASE) project was designed to examine these contradictions and address their implications for academic freedom in general at this pivotal moment.

Inspired by the fall forum co-sponsored by the Tracy Seeley Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and CRASE, our project addresses the current dangerous threats to academic freedom that are becoming widespread in universities under the veil of countering anti-Semitism. Our project has two components: First is writing and submitting a manuscript for publication in an academic journal. We have completed preparing this article, which looks at the broader political context as well as documents and analyzes cases in both the University of California and Catholic, primarily Jesuit, universities, where scholars critical of Israel have experienced harassment and/or repression. Furthermore, we examine the implications not only on academic freedom but also on campaigns for corporate responsibility, the growing threats from real anti-Semitism, and broader discourse on human rights, international law, and U.S. foreign policy. We are now considering which journal in the areas of human rights and peace studies will be most appropriate and impactful for its publication

The second part of our project is a forum at USF in Fall 2019. We are very excited to announce that this event will take place on October 22nd, with renowned critical feminist scholar and political philosopher, Judith Butler, as the keynote speaker.  Butler is not only Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at UC Berkeley, but also she has been outspoken about current threats against academic freedom and how the charge of anti-Semitism against the movement for Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) is being used to suppress activism (


  • Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt Chair, The European Graduate School + Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley
  • Zahra Billoo, JD, Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area
  • Aaron Hahn Tapper, Mae and Benjamin Swig Professor of Jewish Studies, Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, USF
  • Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics, USF


  • Susan Katz, Professor of International and Multicultural Education, Human Rights Education, USF

Mark your calendars for this special event on October 22, 2019 from 5–6:30 pm, in Berman Room, Fromm Hall. A reception will follow at Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]

Healing Through Grassroots Social Justice Movements Created for Educators, by Educators

Farima Pour-Khorshid, assistant professor of Teacher Education, writes about Bay Area social justice movements in education and their impact as a researcher and educator.

T4SJ participants on stairs

Over the past seven years, I’ve felt honored to organize with the Teachers 4 Social Justice (T4SJ) in San Francisco. I initially heard about the T4SJ annual conference back in October of 2012 during a time that I was desperately searching for intellectual and emotional support in my practice. To give some context, I had just returned abruptly to California after living and teaching in Nicaragua for two years because my brother, Mazyar Pour-Khorshid Jr., died unexpectedly just after his twenty-fifth birthday. I was struggling with my mental health, and the pain of that tragedy felt all-encompassing. Yet, despite my grief, I started a PhD program and also returned to teach part-time in my Bay Area community two months later. I figured that the busier I was, the less time I had for depression. That year I remember crying regularly in my classroom during recesses, lunch breaks, and after school. The reality was that my teacher education program did not equip me with knowledge or resources to know how to cope through personal and second-hand trauma as a teacher and I felt overwhelmed.

Beyond my personal struggles, I was constantly reminded of my unhealed trauma from my K-12 schooling experiences within the same district that I was teaching in. I felt triggered each time I witnessed students of color being either spoken about or treated in dehumanizing ways. Mandatory district sponsored teacher professional development and school collaboration meetings added layers of frustration to my experience because I began to realize how my professional learning maintained white supremacy. I began to feel like I was part of the problem, because after all, I was an actor within a system that was fundamentally toxic and inequitable in its very design.

I attended the T4SJ annual conference in October of 2012 after having a conversation with a community-based educator at my school. I left the conference feeling so inspired by all of the teachers and organizers that I met, the radical workshop topics, social justice resources and by the collectivism that permeated every conversation and space I was part of throughout the day. I decided to sign up for a monthly drop-in meeting the following month. I attended and felt rejuvenated by the level of commitment that these educators demonstrated after a long school day as they learned about and critically analyzed a range of problematic issues within education. In so doing, they revealed an impressive depth of knowledge that I had been hungry for since I entered the profession.

My involvement within the organization allowed me to conceptualize my research as meaningfully embedded in my practice and in solidarity with other educators in the field. T4SJ shifted my purpose in my practice as a public school educator, my trajectory as a doctoral student, and my activism as a grassroots organizer. For example, the more I reflected on some of my own racialized and gendered traumatic experiences, the more I began to think about what healing could look like within our organization and across education spaces. I wondered about how T4SJ could offer support, and I proposed creating a racial affinity group within the organization, especially because I yearned for that kind of space in order to sustain myself in the field. Two other T4SJ comrades of color, Karen Zapata and Chela Delgado, joined me in this endeavor and led us to cultivate a sacred space named H.E.L.L.A., a racial affinity group to support critical educators of Color. Being that we are situated within the Bay Area, centering the word hella was an important identity signifier and served as our acronym for our group’s political and pedagogical commitments to healing, empowerment, love, liberation and action (H.E.L.L.A.). Our approach has been rooted in healing centered engagement, which was influenced by the work I was doing with my mentor, Dr. Shawn Ginwright and the Flourish Agenda team. Our approach to collective healing is grounded in the power of our counternarrives as we’ve engaged deeply in Testimonio as Radical Story-Telling and Creative Resistance for sustainability in our work.

My involvement and leadership within T4SJ over time led to my involvement in other grassroots activist collectives like the Bay Area chapter of the People’s Education Movement which our very own Dr. Patrick Camangian cofounded. I also became a board member within the national Education for Liberation Network, which organizes Free Minds Free People, a grassroots national conference that brings together teachers, young people, researchers, parents and community-based activists/educators from across the country to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation.  Collectively, we see activism as a shared struggle for human being which is essentially the “struggle for the inalienable right of all people to human be—to be liberated from any project of violence that treats persons as property, persons as things, persons as disposable, or persons as in any other way less than fully human” (p. 247). This struggle is also connected to building movements to end the prison industrial complex in our schools, the movement for ethnic studies, healing justice and more.

All of the justice-oriented liberatory education collectives that I have been part of have supported and matured my politic of radical teacher learning and support. My scholarship is deeply rooted in and emergent from these relationships with educators and activists as we collectively navigate structural violence in and out of educational spaces. I think it is critical for educators and educational researchers, spanning any level of their career, to be involved in liberatory education organizations. We are teaching, organizing and researching through an apolitical, color evasive, neoliberal education climate which has negative implications on our socialization, pedagogy and sustainability in the field.

We cannot afford to ascribe to the dominant culture, and our integrity lies in the ways we push back against white supremacist ideologies embedded in everyday school policies, practices and interactions. This work cannot be done in isolation, coalitional resistance is and will continue to be our lifeline. However, there is a deep level of humility that must undergird our solidarity, which mustn’t be confused with charity or saviorism, because in the powerful words of Indigenous Australian activist and educator, Lilla Watson, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

As we continue to engage in the labor of love of teaching, organizing and researching for social justice, let us not neglect the spiritual and emotional aspects of our lived experiences. Our mental health matters, especially in the face of structural violence and oppression. Collective healing is such an important form of activism that our world is in desperate need of and creating healing spaces is critical for our wellbeing and sustainability in our struggle for liberation because, in the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.

Flint’s Legacy: Trusting Science and Pursuing Justice

A Series of Events sponsored by a CRASE Interdisciplinary Action Group Grant

Event #1: Public Enemy, an Adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People

Produced by the Performing Arts and Social Justice Program

On April 25, 2014, water officials from Flint, Michigan celebrated as they pushed the button that moved the city’s water supply from the Detroit River, which had supplied it for decades, to the heavily polluted Flint River. The benefits were almost purely financial.

Continue reading “Flint’s Legacy: Trusting Science and Pursuing Justice”

Adventures in Digital Humanities

As a librarian who is passionate about languages, literature, pedagogy, and research, I’m curious about how technology assists their study and practice. I’m also confident that technological innovation needs the critical and constructive perspectives of humanities students and scholars. For these reasons, I wanted to become more proficient in a field that delves into many of these interests and concerns: digital humanities (DH). So, I decided to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (or DHSI) at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

DHSI has been held at the University of Victoria for almost two decades. It’s evolved over time into a 2-week institute where participants take intensive, week-long classes in a particular area of digital humanities. There are also preconference sessions, conversational  sessions, and daily colloquia. Longtime practitioners in DH teach, learn, and share ideas and projects alongside professors, librarians, archivists, graduate students, independent scholars, and journalists from all over the world — some who have been using digital tools and methods in their work for a long time, and others, like me, who are just starting out.

I arrived at DHSI with all of the anticipation, excitement, and nervousness that new learning adventures often bring. I soon found that I had nothing to be apprehensive about because DHSI and the University of Victoria provided a welcoming environment. And, any lingering homesickness that I might have been harboring was quickly abated by an assigned reading which mentioned Roberto Busa, a Jesuit priest and librarian who is often cited as the father of digital humanities. I learned that in the late 1940s, Busa asked IBM to assist him with work on the Index Thomisticus, a tool that made Thomas Aquinas’ corpus searchable. This project was a multi-year endeavor and a great example of the Jesuit influence on DH.

Digital tools are built a lot faster than they were in the 1940s. I learned that common DH methods and projects – such as text analysis, data visualization, mapping, and online publishing – may have any number of different tools, both open-source and proprietary, that scholars use to help them ask and answer new questions. One tool that I particularly liked experimenting with was Voyant – a simple and easy-to-learn open source text analysis and data visualization tool.

Voyant Tools analysis of DHSI website text
Screenshot of a Voyant Tools analysis of DHSI website text

Playing around and experimenting with different tools was fun, but a common refrain at DHSI was to be reflective and discerning about the use of these tools and their value to one’s particular research or projects. Course facilitators stressed that vetting tools is an important part of their research process.

As a result of the reflection and learning I was encouraged to do at DHSI, my own notion of and interests in digital humanities expanded considerably. I began conceiving of my own DH less in terms of tools and methods like text analysis, and more in terms of creating digital collections in collaboration with community stakeholders.

For example, how can I creatively use, remix, learn, and tell new stories or ask new questions with our existing library collections, both digital and analog? And how can I enhance these stories with multimodal learning and experience – by including aspects such as 3D replicas, sound, maps, and timelines? How can I involve our campus community in this endeavor? And, in keeping with our USF mission of changing the world from here, how do projects like digital exhibits make scholarship accessible and in service to communities outside of academia?

Furthermore, the two intensive classes that I took at DHSI – Critical Pedagogy and Digital Praxis in the Humanities (facilitated by Robin DeRosa and Chris Friend)  and Models for DH at Liberal Art Colleges and Four Year Institutions (facilitated by Angel Nieves and Janet Simon) –  encouraged participants to integrate student learning early and often in our DH work. In one of my classes, we talked about creating an online, interactive and open source Early American English literature textbook with and for undergraduates.

I also heard about student DH summer fellowships, where students earned summer course credit for conceiving of and creating a DH project in collaboration with faculty mentors. For example: Lauren White, a junior at Gettysburg College and a double major in Environmental Studies and English, worked with Musselman Library as a Digital Scholarship Summer Fellow. Using a platform called Scalar and material curated from her institution’s special collections and archives, White created This is Why We Fight, an interactive timeline of student-led social justice movements at Gettysburg College.

Gettysburg College student Lauren White’s project This is Why We Fight
Screenshot of Gettysburg College student Lauren White’s project, “This is Why We Fight.”

Here is another example of a project that I enjoyed learning about: Undergraduate and graduate students and their professor, Dr. Kristin Allukian at the University of South Florida, used a platform called Omeka to create, in consultation with a librarian, a searchable, cataloged digital collection or database of suffrage postcards, and are using this database alongside historical research to analyze and ask questions about these artifacts and their historical context. Their work is online and available for anyone to browse or use.

With examples like these as inspiration, I returned home from DHSI thinking about related projects I’ve worked on in the past, and those I’d like to work on in the future. I’m still interested in text mining and analysis (particularly after reading this article). But as a result of attending DHSI, I’m interested in so much more now.

My time at DHSI inspired me to consider the rich content in the USF library’s digital collections and how I might embark on a digital project or exhibit with students that curates content from and uses these collections to tell a story like the one Lauren White tells in “This is Why We Fight.” For example, what stories might be told with the library’s newly digitized collection of USF Foghorn newspapers? I’ve also been browsing Calisphere’s collectionsand digital exhibits for examples of exhibitions and ideas. Calisphere is a project of the California Digital Library, into which all ten University of California campuses, in addition to other California universities, libraries, and cultural institutions (including USF) have contributed digitized content. Last year, Calisphere began accepting proposals for exhibits, or “curated sets of items with scholarly interpretation that contribute to historical understanding.”

My two week immersion at DHSI was, of course, not nearly enough for me to become fluent in digital humanities. As many people I met at the institute suggested, however: it’s OK to start small, and learn from each other as we embark on this work. Collaboration and continued professional development is key. I now feel comfortable tapping the community from DHSI for help in this endeavor. A few librarians at Gleeson Library | Geschke Center also have interests in digital humanities and digital scholarship. I know our Digitization Librarian, Jessica Lu, our scholarly communications librarian Charlotte Roh, and others are excited to discuss the possibilities of DH at the University of San Francisco, too.

Colette Hayes is an assistant librarian at Gleeson Library | Geschke Center.

Trans-Scripts: CRASE-Sponsored Dramatic Reading and Photography

Event Organized by:
Jane Bleasdale, Ph.D.,, Assistant Professor, Department of Leadership Studies
Amie Dowling, MFA,, Associate Professor, Performing Arts Department
Daniela Domínguez, Psy.D.,, Assistant Professor, Counseling Psychology Department

With Donald Trump in office, 2017 was a challenging year for the transgender community in the United States. President Trump’s inaccurate understanding of sexuality and gender has led to the reversal of Obama-era positions on transgender rights and the creation of policies that attempt to harm transgender students, troops, and workers. Disheartened by these discriminatory attacks, professors Jane Bleasdale, Amie Dowling, and Daniela Dominguez felt the need to take action against President Trump’s attempts to silence and oppress the transgender community.

Sponsored by the Center for Research, Artistic, and Scholarly Excellence (CRASE) and the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education, we produced “Trans-Scripts,” an artistic celebration based on the words and lived experiences of people from the transgender community. Trans-Scripts is a dramatic reading that is grounded in intersectional practice, an appreciation for the preservation of transgender rights, and a spirit of resistance to the reversal of progress. This performance featured transgender students and alum, women from El/La Para Trans Latinas, and photographs of transgender women by Kique Bazan of El/La Para Trans Latinas.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

The process of creating “Trans-Scripts” started with 58 pages of interviews conducted by Professor Bleasdale with transgender individuals who attended K-12 Catholic and Public Schools. The interviews were edited to a 14-page script, and a backdrop of layered text from the Trump administration was added. Six rehearsals were held, and throughout the creative process, the producers provided mentorship, training, and encouragement to performers, which created avenues for them to feel empowered to use their voice and assert the value of their performance.

The final performance took place during the week of Transgender Awareness on November 14, 2017, at the University of San Francisco’s Intercultural Center and included a 30-minute dramatic reading and a 30-minute panel discussion led by the performers. The artists delivered an intimate performance that reflected the sociocultural challenges that Dr. Bleasdale’s participants have experienced throughout their journeys. The performance was infused with music selected by the research participants to help audience members better understand the affective dimensions of their lives. “Trans-scripts” was a performance that was as strong and powerful as the transgender communities it represented.

During the panel discussion, faculty, students, community members, producers, and performers, discussed strategies to dismantle cisgender privilege and other forms of oppression. Performers encouraged professors at the University of San Francisco to deepen their relationships with transgender students in order to build safer, more inclusive, and thriving classrooms where their identities are honored. They also drew attention to the importance of using correct pronouns as a demonstration of respect, awareness, and solidarity with the trans community.

Surrounding the stage were 26 photographs captured by Kique Bazan, a longtime activist for justice with years of experience working with advocacy organizations and an adjunct lecturer at the University of San Francisco (USF). His photography contested conventional social constructions of transgender individuals and encouraged cross-cultural dialogue on the importance of moving beyond the male-female dichotomy to increase understanding of the complex multicultural and intersectional identities of the transgender individuals that emerge and develop within them.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

“Trans-scripts” was well attended with over 70 guests which included women from El/La Para Trans Latinas, outreach educators from the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, the Director of USF’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the Director of the Lane Center, the Director of the Intercultural Center, staff and faculty across USF, and many others. Given the presence of monolingual Spanish-speaking guests from El/La, event programs were offered in English and Spanish. During the panel discussion, I provided translations throughout the dialogue to ensure the participation of our Spanish-speaking guests. During the discussion, audience members expressed powerful emotional responses to the performance.

We believe that our event sent a message to the Bay Area community that the University of San Francisco is interested in creating inclusive and affirming environments where transgender students, staff, and faculty can feel safe, protected, and celebrated.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan