Atlantic World Forum: Reimagining the Online Scholarly Roundtable, Reshaping the Global Digital Humanities, Reframing Circum-Atlantic Cultural Histories

Atlantic World Forum explores how digital technology can enhance the collaborative dimensions of the scholarly roundtable across national boundaries. Traditionally appearing in print as a set of essays in dialogue with each other on a shared topic, the roundtable is a good candidate for digital innovation. AWF harnesses the interactive and multimedia dimensions of the digital domain to foster international dialogues on circum-Atlantic cultural history among scholars from different countries. Partnering with a larger French-Brazilian-led project, we assemble a group of five to seven scholars from various countries for each forum, which focuses on a particular theme. Two distinct forums are published per year. Topics range from music, food, cultural diplomacy, migrations, ports, literacy, sports, to, as with our opening roundtable, conceptual approaches to the Atlantic World itself, including comparisons of the literatures on the transatlantic, circum-Atlantic, cis-Atlantic, diasporic, Black Atlantic, Global South, Lusophone, Hispanophone, Francophone and Anglophone worlds, imperialism, colonialism, postcolonialism, the act of decolonizing, material culture, symbolic exchange, linguistic approaches, and the history of capitalism.

Each roundtable culminates in a set of multimedia essays, based on original research, by the participating individual scholars. Along the way, the digital platform enables numerous opportunities for collaboration among the participating scholars and other invited commenters: the sharing of primary sources and empirical data, testing of interpretations, raising and clarifying of questions, drafting of essays, development of bibliographies, exchange of reviews of the existing scholarly literature, periodic video conference meetings, “micro-publications” of findings, post-publication comments and further exchanges, podcasts and videocasts to disseminate findings more robustly, and the development of digital components to essays in collaboration with students in computer science and the digital liberal arts (visualizations, mapping, network analysis, tagging, and text-mining of evidence and arguments). This online work becomes part of the final roundtable alongside the essays, presenting the process of collaboration that led up to the final forum as part of its scholarly contribution.

In this way, Atlantic World Forum offers new insights into Atlantic World history by creating a new mode of intercultural scholarly communication and publication that models what the global digital humanities might be and do. Grounded in cultural history, the project encourages robust interdisciplinary participation not only by historians, but also by literary scholars, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, cultural theorists, cultural critics, and other experts with an interest in Atlantic World history, broadly conceived. The project builds on the best practices of historical and critical inquiry, enhancing them with digital capacities to create new connections as well as new forms of research, dialogue, and writing. From the earliest research and drafting stages of each roundtable through publication and subsequent commentary, a community of international, intercultural scholarship emerges on the very topic of international, intercultural circulation through an ongoing call-and-response dynamic made possible by digital technology and presented on one curated website.