Investigating the Evolution of Twenty-First Century Pop Culture Using Digital Humanities Techniques

Wall of Fame neon light

| By James Carney, Senior Gale Ambassador at King’s College London |

Since the new millennium’s infancy, popular culture and famous lifestyles have captivated the public to an ever greater extent. From the emergence of social media, to the escapism provided from global crises or even the marketability of celebrities in late stage capitalism, the facets of stardom’s grip are numerous. Pop culture has always been a platform for performance – be that of one’s talent, beauty, wealth or quirkiness – but in the twenty-first century, fan reaction and engagement have assumed a far more prominent role in these public theatrics. The political, social and artistic zeitgeist has become rooted not only in celebrity action, but in the increasingly deterministic public reaction too. Gale resources can be used to present the emergence of such a dichotomy through records of both output and interpretation, illuminating the dynamics of the twenty-first century’s evolved popular culture for both academic enquiry and entertainment.

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A Reflection on the Reign of Queen Elizabeth II: The Modernisation of the Monarchy

│By Ava Nichols, Senior Gale Ambassador at the University of Aberdeen│

Following the passing of the longest reigning monarch in British history, the nation mourns the tragic loss of Queen Elizabeth II. I thought it was an apt time to reflect on some of the monumental accomplishments achieved during her reign. When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952, Her Majesty’s youthful ambition offered a sense of hope for change and progress for the British public. Reigning during the twentieth and twenty first centuries, the Queen made historical changes within the establishment, such as embracing technology. Through Gale Primary Sources, I researched The Times Digital Archive and the Daily Mail Historical Archive in order to gain a greater understanding of the modernisation of the monarchy. These digital collections offer a vast range of newspaper articles and publications from the twentieth century, increasing access to history and the potential for research within these collections around the globe.

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Using Primary Sources to Study Gun Control

Studying gun control

|By Rachel Holt, Gale Primary Sources Acquisitions Editor|

This week (July 2022), US President Joe Biden was heckled by the father of a mass shooting victim during a White House event celebrating the passage of a federal gun safety law. This comes in the wake of the mass shooting that killed nineteen children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. But how did we get here?

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The Importance of Archives – Preserving the Past and Contextualising the Present

Finnish National Archives

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

Historian Jo Tollebeek once wrote that increasing “scientification” of history at the end of the nineteenth century produced a new kind of archival-fantasy: a belief that all relevant documents from the past could be gathered. Nowadays it is vital to comprehend and take into account the diversity of an archive. Every archive is bound not only to its history and context but also the demands of the current era. At the end of the day, an archive is in of itself an intellectual problem and a cultural artefact to be studied. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis has also made the important point that, even though the world of archives has encountered many changes, the most important aspect is still the same: when you read documents in an archive you have a physical link to the past in front of you that connects you to people long dead and strengthens the researchers attempt to tell about the past as honestly as possible.1

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The COVID Impact: New Modes of Presenting Your PhD Research During a Pandemic

Man in over-ear headphones on laptop

|By Meg Ison, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth|

In this blog post I will discuss the impact of the pandemic on the PhD experience, and focus on how and why online conferences and blog posts have become new and extremely effective ways for PhD students to disseminate their research.

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Free Speech in a “Post-Truth” Era – The Value of Digital Archives

| By James Carney, Gale Ambassador at King’s College London |

As a literature student, I have studied the power of language for myriad and varying purposes in a range of historical contexts. My studies have exposed me to the fact that language is inherently political – the way in which we construct verbal expression can reflect and compound the powerful forces that command us like hierarchies, social structures, identities or even biases. An example that comes to mind is the profound racism in the name given to South America’s most notable sea – the Caribbean. Popularised by the cartographer Thomas Jeffreys, the word finds roots in the Spanish word for cannibal (carib), and is a name which conquistadors enforced on the natives of this region. The political nature of language is clear from this example – in line with the constructed ‘civilising’ mission of imperialism, language came to reflect prevailing perceptions of the Spanish conquerors in relation to their (problematically) ‘savage’ subjects.

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Pride and Protest: LGBT+ Disability Activism in the US, 1985-1995

Disabled activists

│By Mo Clarke, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Disabled. A word many find uncomfortable. Indeed, it seems much of society still assumes that to be disabled is to be broken, but while it is true that many people with disabilities experience ableism and insufficient support, resources and facilities, activists have long fought against the presumption that to be disabled is inherently bad. Rather than a curse or insult, their disability is a part of their identity and a source of pride. Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender reveal that disability rights have also been a focus for another minority group in the United States: the LGBT+ community. In the 1980s and 1990s LGBT+ activists made great strides towards improving the lives of disabled people.

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African Hairstyles – The “Dreaded” Colonial Legacy

Black person looking at book shelf

│By Nonkoliso Andiswa Tshiki, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa│

My primary school had very strict rules regulating how the African students’ hair should look when we were at school. Hair extensions, for instance, were prohibited. Students were only allowed to have natural hair hairstyles which were deemed neat, such as cornrows. We were particularly prohibited from having dreadlocks; disobeying this rule resulted in expulsion. I am aware that many other school authorities in the rural areas in South Africa forced students to cut their hair so short throughout their schooling career they were effectively bald.

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Unearthing and Decolonising the Rasta Voice

Rasta Voice

| By Robert Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

This post will focus on raising awareness of the Rasta struggle to practise their religion, principally using Gale’s Archives Unbound collections, an extensive database of primary sources included in Gale Reference Complete that many university students such as myself can utilise when conducting all types of research. It currently comprises 382 collections (more are added each year), and includes a compelling collection titled: Rastafari Ephemeral Publications from the Written Rastafari Archives Project. The Rastafarianism movement can be traced back to its beginnings in 1930s Jamaica and its strong connections with the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) who remains a principal figure in the Rastafarian religion. As the political cartoon below illustrates, the Rasta faith is rooted in an ideology which believes that Africa is paramount to black individuals obtaining freedom and escaping their physical, spiritual, emotional and historical oppression and struggle against slavery. As a religious belief system, I think that it is important to become mindful of Rastafari traditions and invest time in accessing elements of this culture, due to the significance of its relationship to the black experience and post-slavery trauma.

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PhDing in a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Research and Teaching

Observations concerning the Plague

│By Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

As an archival scholar trying to write a PhD thesis in a pandemic, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on my working life. The closure of archives, museums, and libraries during the lockdowns prevented me and many others from accessing essential primary resources needed for doctoral research. And without physical access to exciting objects, manuscripts, and printed items to help bring texts alive, inspiring undergraduate students whilst teaching them over Microsoft Teams became equally difficult. With COVID cases once again climbing, we are far from being free of the pandemic. But how can we try to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education and research? And what will the long-term impacts of the pandemic be?

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