History teaches us as much about ourselves as the past. As a former history and mathematics teacher at a large inner-city high school, I have seen firsthand the transformative power of historical exploration. Teaching in both Kalamazoo public high schools profoundly shaped my teaching practice and philosophy. Experiencing history’s powerful impact on my students and the community inspired me to pursue my doctorate in the subject.
Currently, I am a faculty member at Claremont Graduate University in the School for Arts and Humanities, a Visiting Professor in Digital Humanities at Claremont McKenna College, and the Director of the Digital Research Studio at The Claremont Colleges. The course website for the introductory digital humanities course for librarians is available here: dhatccl101.com/. Tutorials, workshop materials, and reflections on my work are available at AshleyRSanders.com.
In May 2015, I completed my Ph.D. in History at Michigan State University. My manuscript, based on my dissertation, explores how and why settler colonies developed in the American Midwest (1776-1795) and Algeria (1830-1848) by examining interactions between Indigenous communities, colonists, colonial administrators, the military, and the métropole. Despite differences in geography, relative size of the military presence and Indigenous demographics, my research reveals previously overlooked sets of actors and the remarkably similar trajectories of these disparate settler colonies. I argue that settler colonies in the American Midwest and Algeria resulted from a bottom-up process in which settler desires for land and greater economic opportunities compelled them to emigrate and stake their claim to these territories.
My work also extends into the digital humanities where my interests include text and network analysis, as well as data visualization. As a Cultural Heritage Informatics fellow through MATRIX at Michigan State University, I launched the first stage of Settler Colonialism Uncovered, a project that will be under development over the next several years. Using Omeka with the Neatline plugin suite, I created exhibits that describe the evolution of settler colonies with interactive temporal map interfaces that link to additional maps, paintings, sketches, photographs, primary documents, and a narrative to contextualize the digital objects. For more information, see my CHI page on this site. Currently, I am working on a large text analysis project of late 18th century American correspondence to continue exploring the development of the first American (rather than British) settler colonies in the Northwest Territory.
Throughout my academic career, I have received research fellowships from the CIC American Indian Studies Consortium, the Newberry Library’s Consortium in American Indian Studies, and a Foreign Language and Area Studies grant for language training in Arabic, as well as departmental support and funding for French language study. As a leader in the consortium of five undergraduate liberal arts colleges and two graduate institutions, I helped write the successful $1,500,000 Andrew W. Mellon grant proposal for the consortial Center for Teaching and Learning. Now, I serve as an Advisory Board member and co-facilitate several professional development events each year. Given my experience on grant-writing teams, I recently agreed to serve on the NEH planning grant committee for Claremont Graduate University.
Over the past six years, I have presented many conference papers, including “Civilization, American Indians, and the Noble Savage Myth in French Colonial and American Discourses” at the 2012 American Studies Association Annual Meeting and “Conquering Land, Settling People: Technologies of Rule in Algeria, 1840-1873,” at the Society for French Historical Studies Annual Conference in 2013. Recently, my conference presentations have focused on the development of Digital Humanities programs. However, I will be presenting a talk entitled, “Contested and Embodied Indigeneity in French Algeria, 1830-1848” at the French Colonial Historical Society conference this summer (2018) in Seattle. Another panel proposal explores the competing motives and interests of settlers, Native leaders, and the United States government in the Old Northwest Territory between 1783 and 1795 for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic annual meeting, 2018.
In my role as a faculty member, I teach courses in Digital Humanities, but each one is an outgrowth of my research. At Claremont McKenna College, I develop and teach upper level undergraduate courses that bring together computer science and humanities students to create innovative historical research projects. This fall, for example, one student team has designed a historical sentiment analysis project that explores affect and bias expressed in council meeting notes and official treaties between the United States and Native American communities between 1776 and 1795. As a Visiting Professor and Director of the Digital Research Studio, I also serve on Claremont McKenna’s Data Science committee, where I have assisted in writing a new minor program.
At Claremont Graduate University, my courses introduce humanities students to basic digital competencies, as well as more advanced research techniques, particularly text mining and network analysis. In “New Worlds for All: DH Research Methods in Settler Colonial Studies,” students studied the history of settler colonialism in a comparative framework through applying digital research methods to primary sources on the American settlement of the Northwest Territory during and immediately after the Revolution as well as English language source materials on French Algeria. Another course, “Text Analysis for Effective Humanities Research in the Digital Age,” asks students to apply the text analysis methods learned through readings and in-class workshops to their own source materials to craft a research paper. My syllabi are available at: http://ashleyrsanders.com/courses. Additionally, I serve on three students’ committees, in which I oversee their preparation for qualifying exams and serve as a mentor as they complete dissertation research.