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Surfacing black and brown bodies in the digital archive: domestic workers in late nineteenth-century Australia

Bressey, C; (2020) Surfacing black and brown bodies in the digital archive: domestic workers in late nineteenth-century Australia. Journal of Historical Geography , 70 pp. 1-11. 10.1016/j.jhg.2020.07.001. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper examines the potential for the digital turn, particularly the extensive and ongoing digitisation of nineteenth-century newspapers, to enable scholars to rethink the experiences of individuals previously marginalised and hard to find in historical sources. The rapid digital turn in historical research has prompted scholars to argue for conversations in which to consider the implications of digital technologies in historical research practices. Yet in historical geography, though scholars work with and make digital data in a multitude of ways, there has been little formal reflection on the concerns, challenges or methodological opportunities presented by the formation of digital archives. To do so this paper takes as its focus ‘coloured’ workers employed in forms of domestic service at the end of the nineteenth century in Australia. Firstly, by resurfacing ‘coloured’ workers through their presence in newspaper advertisements the paper illustrates that digital methodologies enable the identification of individuals missed through previous forms of data analysis. Secondly, the paper seeks to illustrate how their reappearance can frame a rethinking of domestic labour and colonial identities, gender roles and the ethnic complexities of ‘coloured’ labour in the British Empire. The paper argues that though newspaper advertisements for employment are brief and impersonal, and their meanings, as mediated through form and time, are at times hard to decipher, gathering them together into a new archive supports a more complex reading of diversity across national, regional, local and imperial geographies.

Type: Article
Title: Surfacing black and brown bodies in the digital archive: domestic workers in late nineteenth-century Australia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhg.2020.07.001
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2020.07.001
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Digital archives, Newspapers, Domestic service, British empire, Australia, Black history
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10104225
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