Historian, Mathematician, Digital Humanist, Writer
Ashley R. Sanders is Vice Chair of the Digital Humanities Program at UCLA. She holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialization in Digital Humanities from Michigan State University and a B.S. in both History and Mathematics from Western Michigan University. A comparative colonial historian, her research explores the development of settler colonies in the United States and French Algeria. Her first publication, “A Study of the Teaching Methods of High School History Teachers,” appeared in The Social Studies, a peer reviewed journal, in 2008. Her most recent publications include “Silent No More: Women as Significant Political Intermediaries in Ottoman Algeria” (Current Research in Digital History, 2020), “Building a DIY Community of Practice,” which will appear in the latest book in the Debates in DH series, People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities outside the Center (December 2021), and a maturity framework for DH centers.
Her first Digital Humanities book project, entitled, Visualizing History’s Fragments, is under contract with Palgrave Macmillan Press. In addition, she is currently revising her first historical manuscript, “Between Two Fires: The Origins of Settler Colonialism in the United States and French Algeria,” for publication, and she has begun work on her third book, entitled, “Imperial Margins: Ethnicity, Gender, and Identity in Ottoman-Algeria, 1518-1837.”
To learn more about her historical and digital humanities research, check out her academic site, Colonialism Through the Veil and click on the links below.
ORCiD 0000-0002-8290-6601 | GitHub: https://github.com/AshleySanders
Visualizing History’s Fragments models how scholars may use digital research methods to study archival specters – people who lived, breathed, and made their mark on history, but whose presence in the archives and extant documents remains limited, at best, if not altogether lost. A number of scholars have written cogently and movingly about power and archival silences, and a growing number of tutorials provide pragmatic guidance on the use of computational techniques, but few studies exemplify how digital research methods may be used to address archival voids. Feminist literary theory, postcolonial studies, and critical information studies provide theoretical frameworks with which to “listen to the silences,” and read archives “against the grain”. Now, developments in text mining and social network analysis offer practical methods to investigate latent patterns in our available source materials. Digital tools cannot metaphorically resurrect the dead nor fill archival gaps, but they can help us excavate the people-shaped outlines of those who might have filled these spaces. Using documents related to Ottoman Algeria as a case study, we show how new digital research methods, such as text mining and network analysis have much to offer humanists, especially when sources are scant, difficult to find, and even more challenging to access. This book also illustrates how natural language processing makes it possible to automate much of the labor-intensive processes described in chapters one through three, demonstrating the fruitfulness of cross-disciplinary collaborations.
Between Two Fires examines the complex relations between Indigenous peoples, settlers, military leaders, and metropolitan officials during the first two decades of conquest and colonization in the American Midwest and French Algeria. Charting the development of settler colonies in both regions, this book argues that the American and French settler colonial projects both resulted from bottom-up processes that grew out of local, personal relationships and interests on the ground in the colonies. In this study, I examine a diverse array of source material, including military reports, political correspondence, legislation, memoirs, newspapers, and notes from Indigenous councils to compare the characteristics of each settler colony’s trajectory. In its focus on the local people and events within the global, this book illuminates the often-overlooked, yet fundamental, role of Indigenous actors in shaping and bounding settler colonization, as well as the shared nature of settler colonial projects regardless of their metropolitan base. Juxtaposing these two case studies of grass-roots settler colonialism decenters the nation and relocates metropolitan officials to the margins in order to focus on the Indigenous and colonial actors who drove and negotiated the settler colonial projects on the ground. Using comparative Indigenous studies as a lens through which to view settler colonialism furthers our understanding of the fundamental processes at work and the shared nature of settler colonialism irrespective of metropolitan base.
Imperial Margins is the first study to explore the inner workings of Algerian society and politics from its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire through its transition to French governance. It builds on the work of Pierre Boyer, Charles André Julien, İ. Metin Kunt, Jane Hathaway, Christian Windler, Tal Shuval, Fatiha Loualich, Gillian Weiss, among others. It is unique in its examination of two capital cities – Algiers and Constantine – and its use of gender, kinship, ethnicity, and notions of indigeneity to understand how power flowed and functioned at the margins of Ottoman, European, and African societies in the early modern period. This study exemplifies my interdisciplinary approach by using statistical data analysis, text mining, and graph theory. The products of these techniques shed light on the ways in which local social politics influenced Ottoman officials’ opportunities and efficacy at the edge of empire. Chapter one, “Ottoman Sovereignty and European Entanglements,” and chapter two, “Pathways to Power: Ethnicity and Kinship in Ottoman Algeria, 1518 – 1837,” examine provincial governors’ journeys from their origins as Turkish volunteers, conscripted Christian subjects, or former slaves to their eventual nomination to the highest offices within the Ottoman Regency. Chapter three, “Silent No More: The Roles of Algerian Women in Provincial Ottoman Governance” argues that North African women as brides, communicators, military leaders, and political advisers, were essential links connecting Algeria to the Ottoman Empire. The fourth chapter, “Imperial Negotiations in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Algerian Women as Diplomatic Intermediaries,” reveals how political wives impeded or advanced diplomacy between Algeria, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe. The final chapter explores notions of identity and indigeneity during the transition from Ottoman to French sovereignty through the lives and writings of Yusuf, a “Renegade” Jew from Livorno, and Hadj Ahmed Bey, the mixed-ethnicity last governor of Constantine.