Mapping Diasporas is an interdisciplinary course at the University of California, Berkeley, conceived and taught by Francesco Spagnolo, and centering around the holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.

How do we “map” cultures in diaspora? The advent of the digital humanities provides an opportunity to re-think culture in diaspora by looking at data, social media, and the web as interconnected platforms that may carry this metaphor to an entirely new level.

This project explores digital humanities approaches to diasporic culture through hands-on research focusing on cultural heritage objects held in The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California, Berkeley.

Mapping Diasporas originally started as a Digital Humanities Special Topics Seminar,  funded through the Andrew W. Mellon grant, Capacity Building and Integration in the Digital Humanities, administered by Digital Humanities at Berkeley, a project of the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities and Research IT at UC Berkeley. It then evolved into a full-fledged course, now offered through the Berkeley Center for Jewish Studies, in collaboration with Global Studies.

As part of the project planning project, the Townsend Center Working Group on Modern Jewish Culture, which has been meeting at The Magnes since 2012 under the direction of Francesco Spagnolo, devoted its 2015-2016 meetings to the topic of “Mapping Diasporas.” A list of participants in the working group is available here. Their help was fundamental in developing this course.


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