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Global DH 2019 Presentation

Mar
21

Title: Silent No Longer: Using Text Mining and Social Networks to Decolonize the History of Algerian Women

Abstract:
Due to the marginalization of the Maghreb in African and Middle Eastern studies, the history of Ottoman Algeria remains understudied; the history of women in Ottoman Algeria is practically unknown. Accessible sources are limited. The few extant fragments of information about women during this 300-year period emerge from European and American travel accounts, consular records, nineteenth-century French scholarship, and chronicles of the provincial governors of Constantine, Algeria. This project seeks to decolonize knowledge about Algeria and its archive. By repurposing digital tools, we can bring to the surface the most marginalized voices and highlight the experiences of Algerian women. Through the use of close reading, text mining, and network analysis we can begin to uncover some of the untold stories of women who lived under Ottoman rule in Constantine, Algeria between 1567 and 1837. Text mining of the aforementioned sources using Named Entity Recognition unearths the names of prominent men and women, and network analysis begins to shine a light upon the relationships among the Ottoman elite and autochthonous Algerian notable families. I argue that these relations reveal the ways in which women were central to the creation and maintenance of the socio-political fabric that held together the tenuous bonds of Ottoman Algerian society and government. Algerian women were essential intercultural mediators and conduits to power. Contemporary Ottoman officials and Algerian men clearly understood this fact in ways that have been lost in the historical record. This study, then, seeks to mirror the historical reality by properly positioning women in the narrative, correcting the inaccurate representations of women in colonial literature, and rectifying their glaring absence in both scholarship and the public record.

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