Barracoon is absolutely one of the best books of 2018, though it was written some 90 years ago. It’s a previously unpublished work from one of America’s literary giants – Zora Neale Hurston, most famously known for Their Eyes Were Watching God (another personal favorite).
In Barracoon, Hurston relays the story of Oluale Kossula, known locally as Cudjo Lewis. Kossula was one of the last survivors of the Clotilda, the final slave schooner to have transported kidnapped Africans to the United States. One of the most unique things about his story is in its timing. Kossula was kidnapped after growing up in West Africa, sold into slavery just prior to the Civil War, and after a few years he is eventually freed as the reconstruction era begins in the south. As such, Kossula details stories from his childhood in Africa, his years as a slave in the south, and from his life as a free man – albeit one who was torn apart from his beloved homeland.
The story itself is written entirely in Kossula’s vernacular with very few interventions from Hurston, except to explain the circumstances around individual interviews or her perspectives on Kossula’s thoughts and feelings. Those who have read Their Eyes Were Watching God will be familiar with this move from Hurston, but the effect is all the more intimate when done in a historical piece. Reading Kossula’s own words and manner of speech gives helps reveal a character and depth of spirit which might be occluded by other methods.
The book is also fascinating from a methodological standpoint. Hurston goes to great lengths – both professionally and emotionally – to build her relationship with Kossula, and the genuine care she has both for him and his story are evident throughout the text. The result is a master class for anyone interested in conducting rigorous and thoughtful qualitative work.
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I'm really excited about this – the Dot Citizen Podcast is officially live!
This project has been a really long time in the making. I've had notes and ideas for a podcast like this going back to 2015, but haven't had the time or energy to put it together. But earlier this year, I teamed up with WhiteHat Magazine's editor Chrisella Herzog, and we've been putting the podcast together since then. And now, it's officially a project of WhiteHat Magazine!
And now, I bet you've got some questions, so let's sort those out:
What is Dot Citizen? Dot Citizen is a podcast exploring the intersections of technology, policy, and human rights. Inspired by my PhD research and some of the core areas of focus for WhiteHat Magazine, our podcast takes an in-depth look at some of the most pressing questions surrounding technology and politics. We interview experts in these areas, and bring their perspectives and research to a general audience in a way that's both thought-provoking and easy to understand.
Who do you interview? We interview a lot of different people! The idea is we pick a topic to cover for a month, find folks who are doing important research or have unique perspectives on those areas, and take a deep dive into the subject. Our first series covers technology and election security, which we felt was really important with the 2018 midterms fast approaching. Here's who we spoke with for that series:
How can I follow the podcast? Right now, the easiest place to check in for new episodes is through our libsyn page, which you can access here. But our episodes are going to be available on multiple podcast streaming services, and I will update this post to reflect those as they are made live. So far, we know they will be made available on the following services:
What's next? Next up, we will explore how different tools are being used both by Iranian activists and their government in the context of human rights. Stay tuned for another post outlining those! Until then, please take a listen and share your thoughts with us. If you have any comments on the episodes, ideas for future topics, or suggestions for people to interview, contact me and let me know!