Wikipedia:Meetup/Boston/Northeastern OA17

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

De-colonizing Wikipedia: Editing Romantic Depictions of Colonial History and Literature

When: Friday, December 1st, 2017, 11:00am - 3:00pm

What does "De-colonizing Wikipedia" mean?: Wikipedia, particularly when relying on older, pre-19th century secondary sources, can repeat the racist, sexist, and colonial attitudes of the past. One way to start "de-colonizing" Wikipedia is to encourage a much more critical use of historical colonial sources on Wikipedia, taking into account the place and time those sources were written. Without doing so, Wikipedians unintentionally extend or replicate the colonial power structures, such as those of race, class, nationality, and sexuality, embedded in those sources. This event seeks to revise the flowery, sentimental, and romantic language used in Wikipedia's representation of colonial history and literature, where descriptions relying on older secondary sources often include puffery and peacock language that makes the brutal experience of being colonized sound romantic, exciting, and adventurous.

Where: Digital Scholarship Commons in the Northeastern University Libraries (Snell Library, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.) Make a right as you come out of the main library stairwell on the second floor.

Food? Yes! We will provide pizza.

You do not need to be an experienced Wikipedia editor in order to attend, just bring a willingness to learn.

Event details[edit]

Inspired by two recuperative digital archives at Northeastern, the Early Caribbean Digital Archive and the Women Writers Project, this event seeks to revise Wikipedia articles which extend romantic and orientalist representations of colonial history and literature. Our goal is to neutralize the heightened romantic and sentimental language used on Wikipedia to represent historical figures, paying special attention to representations of marginalized persons such as women, free and enslaved people of color, and indigenous persons. We will focus on Wikipedia articles on historical persons, travel narratives, natural histories, captivity narratives, and slave narratives.

We will begin with an this article on Dutch soldier John Gabriel Stedman, whose colonial Caribbean travel narrative [1] was circulated throughout Europe and North America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries. Embedded within Stedman’s wikipedia article is romanticized depiction of his relationship with a fifteen-year-old enslaved girl named Joanna, which includes language such as: “he was taken with her appearance,” “Stedman was captivated by Joanna's looks and charm, and they soon began a romance,” and “He often describes instances of her loyalty and devotion to him.”

How can we revise this language to remove the loaded and romantic wording? How can we encourage a more critical use of historical sources on Wikipedia, analyzing the colonial power structures underlying historical documents such as Stedman’s travel narrative, rather than simply accepting the representations in a historical source and reproducing the ideology within? Our goal is to encourage more critical distance and accuracy when representing colonial women such as Joanna on Wikipedia.

About us[edit]

The Digital Scholarship Group, part of Northeastern University Libraries, opened in January 2014 and develops new tools and methods in representation, analysis, and dissemination of scholarship, teaching researchers at all levels about those new techniques, while also strengthening Northeastern’s expertise in research methods that engage and question the effects of the digital medium on culture and communication.

The The Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) is an open access collection of pre-twentieth-century Caribbean materials, such as travel narratives, novels, poetry, natural histories, and diaries, as well as maps and images. The ECDA is a digital experiment in decolonizing the archive, where scholars can access, research, and contribute pre-twentieth-century Caribbean archival materials.

The Women Writers Project (WWP) is a long-term research project devoted to early modern women’s writing and electronic text encoding. The WWP's goal is to bring texts by pre-Victorian women writers out of the archive and make them accessible to a wide audience of teachers, students, scholars, and the general reader. The WWP supports research on women’s writing, text encoding, and the role of electronic texts in teaching and scholarship.

The Digital Feminist Commons is a graduate student organized, interdisciplinary working group for digitally-oriented feminist research at Northeastern University. The Digital Feminist Commons promotes a more visible and vocal intersection between feminist and computational research by holding hack-a-thons, running praxis-oriented events, such as a zine-making workshop, and organizing panels on digital feminisms. This project has been funded by the Association for Computers and the Humanities, and Northeastern's Humanities Center.


If possible, create your Wikipedia account ahead of time. (If you can't, that's not a problem: we will help you.)

Please bring a laptop and power supply.


  • Location and directions
  • Twitter: @ClubSnell, @Snell_Research, @NUwwp, @ecdaproject
  • WiFi: Use NUWave-guest -- we will give out an access code in person
  • What to bring: Attendees should bring their own laptops and power cords, and will need a photo ID to sign into the library. Just let the front desk staff know you are here for the edit-a-thon.
  • Contact the organizers: If you have questions ahead of time, contact Amanda Rust. For directions and help finding the building on the day of, call the library's Circulation Desk at (617) 373-8778.

Sign up and guest list[edit]


  1. AmandaRR123 (talk) 19:06, 13 November 2017 (UTC)
  2. LibrarianBTeam (talk) 14:43, 13 November 2017 (UTC)
  3. Akijas1 (talk) 9:08, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  4. Sedelorme 9:30, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  5. Zetamathian
  6. ZosterPox
  7. elp10d
  8. SarahEC717

Participating remotely[edit]

  1. Rosiestep (talk) 04:39, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  2. Jkmcgrath (talk) 12:38, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

Suggested topics[edit]

Of course you are not limited to this list! Developed with help from the Women Writers Project.

Articles to improve[edit]

  • Joanna -- Fifteen year old enslaved girl in colonial Suriname, popularized as a central character in John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, 1796.
  • Hannah Allen -- English nonconformist writer, author of “A Narrative of God’s Gracious Dealings with that Choice Christian Mrs. Hannah Allen.”
  • Sarah Fell -- 17–18C English Quaker, fourth daughter of Margaret Fell [née Askew], the Quaker leader, who accompanied her on one of her missions and later managed their estate during her period of imprisonment. Later on her husband’s estate at Barking, Essex, provided a resting place for Quakers visiting London, especially George Fox and her other sister, Susannah Fell. She was noted for her Quakerish eloquence.
  • Dorothy Leigh -- 17C English Protestant writer of a popular mother’s advice book _The Mothers Blessing_, which was addressed to her children and published posthumously in 1616. Her writings were mainly concerned with moral issues, women’s chastity and marriage rights, rape, female education, and religion. Engaging with the long-standing debate over rape, she argues, contentiously, that rape does not undermine a woman's chastity. The feelings of shame experienced by women after rape, she contends, signify their innocence, exemplified particularly in those who commit suicide.
  • Mary Pope -- 17C Presbyterian writer. notable for writing and publishing in an era when few women did; NB: this particular Mary Pope not yet covered.
  • Eleanor Davies -- C16/C17 writer and prophet; focused on adding content related to The Word of God (; I probably won't have time today, but the page for Mervyn Tuchet (the subject of The Word of God) also could use revising; the description of the perceived guilt / intentions informing the trial and its verdict are odd and at times unsourced.

New articles[edit]

Women's works[edit]

Library sources for historical research[edit]

Wikipedia help[edit]

Understanding Wikipedia's standards[edit]

Understanding Wikipedia's organization and markup[edit]


New articles created[edit]

Articles expanded or improved[edit]