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Oct 25, 2018

In this episode we look back at one of our most read articles from the past few years—Lara Putnam’s “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast,” which appears in the April 2016 issue of the AHR. In it, Putnam explores some of the unintended, as well as largely unexamined, consequences of the mass digitization of historical sources, what she calls the digitized turn, and how this development has linked in both positive and potentially problematic ways to the rise of transnational history. Read the article here: Lara Putnam is a historian of race, gender, migration, and politics in the twentieth-century Americas. Her recent publications have pursued two tracks: exploring theoretical and methodological dimensions of the historical discipline’s “transnational turn” from the basis of her deep training within the area studies paradigm; and continuing her empirical archival research into the history of the Greater Caribbean, including not only anglophone, hispanophone, and francophone islands but the interlinked borderlands that stretch from Venezuela to Central America and indeed on to New Orleans and Harlem. Most recently, she was the lead author of a successful Mellow Sawyer Seminar proposal entitled “Information Ecosystems: Creating Data (and Absence) from the Quantitative to the Digital Age,” a process that brought together a multidisciplinary team from across the humanities and social sciences. This national grant will bring a series of leading international scholars together over the course of AY 2019-20, foregrounding both the importance of cutting-edge computational methods in the social sciences and humanities, and the need for critical thinking about data infrastructure and information ecosystems as we engage those methods. Putnam is also engaged in a parallel line of research and writing about face-to-face political organizing and its role in a fraught age of political change, with articles in Democracy, The New Republic, The American Prospect, and beyond. With Theda Skocpol. “Middle America Reboots Democracy.” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Summer 2018 print issue. With Theda Skocpol. “Accentuate the Activists.” The New Republic, September 2018 print issue. “Digital Fixes Won’t Solve the Democrats’ Problems.” American Prospect, April 2018.