Mapping Projects

I am particularly interested in finding ways in which new technologies can be used to disseminate academic research to a broader audience. I’m currently working with Dr. Vincent Hiribarren (expert programmer; all-round good guy) on two digital humanities mapping projects:

Mapping Black International Travel: The US and South Africa, 1945-1960

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This project attempts to map the travels of prominent black individuals between the United States and South Africa during the early Cold War. By examining the nature and circumstances of these journeys we hope to highlight the domestic and international forces that policed African American and black South African travel in this period and attempted to exert control over black mobility more generally.

Between 1945-1960 in the United States and South Africa attempts were made by both national governments to shore up their borders to prevent the influx of any potentially ‘subversive’ or ‘disruptive’ foreign influences that would bring about international criticism of their racial policies. As a result the ability of African Americans to travel, to link up with like-minded individuals and collaborate on similar issues relating to their respective racial situations, was drastically reduced throughout this period. The individuals who did travel were often only able to do so if they were able to claim legitimate anticommunist credentials, refused to involve themselves in overtly political projects, or were involved in certain forms of ‘respectable’ religious work. If these individuals failed to live-up to these sanctions passports were revoked and visa would inevitably be denied.

This is an interactive project and is far from complete. We hope to invite people to submit the names and details of individuals who travelled between these two spaces so we can add them to the map. This project may also be expanded out to encompass broader geographical spaces and a greater span of time.

Anti-Apartheid in Exile: Alfred Hutchinson’s Road to Ghana

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This project tells the story of the ANC activist Alfred Hutchinson, who in 1958 illegally left apartheid South Africa. Facing charges of treason, Hutchinson traversed Africa in an attempt to reach newly independent Ghana – a place that he hoped would be a safe haven from white supremacy and the dehumanising system of apartheid. His journey was made all the more pressing by the fact that he had met and fallen in love with Hazel Slade, a white teacher from England. Illegal under apartheid law, this interracial relationship placed the couple under intense pressure and led to increased harassment by the South Africa authorities.

The map relies on Alfred (Road to Ghana) and Hazel’s (The Other Side of the Road) respective accounts of this specific time in their lives. It also draws on and contains audio clips from an oral interview conducted with Hazel Hutchinson in September 2012. Although designed to draw attention to a very specific story, these travels tell us much about the nature anti-apartheid protest, state repression and African decolonisation throughout the 1950s. The plan is to expand these themes by embedding this project within a broader website that will contain writings, oral histories, images and documents that will further contextualise the specific themes the map addresses.