Sankofa Imperatives: Black Women, Digital Methods, and the Archival Turn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This essay takes up the archival turn—what the author is calling the “sankofa imperative”—in digital spaces, using the work of the Colored Conventions Project to ask broader questions about the recovery of Black women’s life stories and organizing efforts. Does a collective, distributed model of recuperative history in a digital, digitized, database age change both the equation and the ways in which scholars grapple with the argument that “the violence of Atlantic slavery was so great, and the limits of the archive so absolute, that no amount of historical recovery could properly describe it, let alone undo its damage,” as the editors of Social Text’s special issue “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom and the Archive” put it? Do historical calculations of slavery, Black unfreedom and its afterlives, and their accompanying archival violence function differently when recovery methods extend beyond the temporal limits that analog intellectual production demands? How does conventional (or pre-digital) scholarship in print formats differ from non-analog timelines that enable additional materials to be recovered, uploaded, and aggregated collectively and over time? This essay examines collective digital practices that can piece together scattered Black women’s archives and historical shards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-435
Number of pages13
Journala/b: Auto/Biography Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory

Cite this