Dr Alicia Colson
Dr Sherezade Garcia Rangel
As part of our mission to undertake research on the Society’s Collections and to make them more accessible, we have awarded 10 Wiley Research Fellowships for 2020-21. The Fellowships, which were awarded in collaboration with Wiley, provide researchers with access to our Collections via the Wiley Digital Archive platform.
Every month we will be speaking to two of our Research Fellows to find out more about their projects.
Dr Alicia Colson (independent researcher) is looking at the forgotten archipelago of Santa Catarina in her project From ‘Banishment’ to ‘Cool’: a chairborne exploration of a ‘forgotten archipelago’ - Santa Catarina, Brazil, and Dr Sherezade Garcia Rangel’s (Falmouth University) project is titled Unbound Beauty: Venezuela according to the Wiley Digital Archive. We caught up with them to discuss their research, why they applied for the Fellowship and what they’re hoping to find in the digital archives.
Alicia Colson (AC): I spent part of my childhood in Santa Catarina, Brazil and its mental universe remains. This small world of towering peaks, lagoons, forests, and beaches was ignored by English steamers bound for Buenos Aires and Valparaiso. Peripheral to the English-speaking world, the Ilha (island) is a well-kept secret amongst Brazilians. The frontier between two vast global trading empires, its current residents are bequeathed a challenging archaeology, a supremely tangled geography: for the tropics meet the Antarctic. Unsurprisingly, the archipelago of Santa Catarina came to play a supporting role in our struggles to understand evolution. Meanwhile its beaches and its trails reveal another mental world; one of busy trans-oceanic commerce and enquiry, slaves and free, the digital archive maps might just throw a light on the English perspective of somewhere. They always carry far more information than mere text.
Sherezade Garcia Rangel (SGR): My current research follows two main strands: investigating and practicing with the podcast as a literary form and narrating the Venezuelan diaspora through the short story as a form of protest. I have successfully completed a season of my first podcast and wanted to continue practicing podcasting. I have also been working on ways in which to narrate the crisis in Venezuela and my own experience as a Venezuelan immigrant. I wanted to find ways in which to bring these two strands together, and that is how I became interested in the project I am currently working on in this Fellowship: Unbound Beauty: Venezuela according to the Wiley Digital Archive.
AC: The prospect of the Fellowship had an allure and I hope to combine my interests as archaeologist and ethno-historian by exploiting digital technologies. I’m also fluent in Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese - the languages current in the history and consciousness of the land, so I’m well-placed to grasp different perspectives and engage with the detail of the maps. StoryMaps, (a research tool) is also a prism through which to study them. This gives me the chance to draw on Brazil’s exuberant traditions of visual images. Images provide that sense of place and time. Would it be possible to use an archival source such as the Society’s Collections to introduce readers to a place which, though liminal to the Anglophone world, contributes to 21st century Brazil’s boisterous sense of itself?
SGR: A fellow researcher sent over the call for applications, and I was immediately fascinated. I think creative writing and podcasting as a research method have a lot to offer the scientific disciplines and I want to explore opportunities to use these skills and methods to bring together practices you might not initially think are connected.
I think some people might wonder why creative writing is a natural fit for the Wiley Digital Archives - my response is: it’s all already there. These documents tell stories. They have characters, challenging plots and interesting human insights. A creative writer can look at them and find different things, relevant moments. In my podcast On the Hill, I have been working with archival material and I am in awe at how inspiring it is for original creative writing. When I saw this Fellowship, I felt this could be an excellent way for me to gain rare access to archives I might not encounter easily, and to learn more about Venezuela’s past, trying to get a wider perspective about its present. This project too could provide another platform in which to explore and bring awareness to what is happening in Venezuela. I think the podcast form can help others gain awareness about Venezuela’s history and allow me to showcase the power of creative writing informed by archival research.
AC: I’m fascinated by the wealth of information carried by photographs, maps, diagrams, and paintings. Images can be memory aids and Santa Catarina is a land of many cultures, closed to foreigners and publications until 1808, so Brazilians, nobles, traders, rich or poor, slave or free, male or female, relied on images and oral records (rather than print) to guide them. ‘Unpacking’ the maps by close reading provides windows to those many worlds of the Ilha de Santa Catarina.
SGR: Very comfortably. This project allows me to knit together the strands of my research interests and hopefully provide a contribution to enable people to learn more about Venezuela. It helps me to continue my writing and podcasting practice at a new level and that is exciting. I am working with Venezuelan naturalists as well, and they share my joy at gaining this access.
AC: My initial exploration of the archives indicated the presence of beautiful and detailed maps of the archipelago - handiwork of cartographers from far and wide. Each introduced their own perspective, throwing light on the Ilha and its visitors. I knew from previous work that the holdings of the Society on this region of South America would be smaller than places such as Saharan Africa, the Antarctic and the Polar regions, and the Middle and Near East where British explorers had penetrated. But those bound for the South Atlantic had passed by Santa Catarina so something interesting just might lurk there!
SGR: I am hoping to find clues about how the narratives that play a role in contemporary Venezuela are connected with its past and how much of that was determined from the accounts of visitors and explorers. I want to know how connected they were with Venezuelans in their travels and I am interested in discovering, through the documents in the digital archives, how much of those macro narratives, such as Venezuela as a land of riches, were established by these visitors and explorers. What kind of nation, landscape and people come through in these documents? I have already found some interesting clues, indicating some contemporary descriptions of Venezuela are centuries old. It will be fascinating to bring all of this together and interpret it with my own creative writing.
Find out more about our Wiley Digital Archive Research Fellowships.
Find out more about research on our Collections.
As part of the first Disaster Risk Management Professional Practice Group’s fireside chat series, Dr Tina Thomson CGeog spoke to four experts working in Disaster Risk Management.
Census 2021 takes place in England and Wales on Sunday 21 March, with the data collected providing a unique resource for understanding population characteristics and distributions across England and Wales.
We’re excited to announce this year’s Earth Photo competition is open for entries.
Monday 8 March was International Women’s Day, and throughout this week we have been celebrating the contributions of female geographers to the discipline by sharing the names of the women who have inspired you geographically.
By placing a booking, you are permitting us to store and use your (and any other attendees) details in order to fulfil the booking.
We will not use your details for marketing purposes without your explicit consent.
You must be a member holding a valid Society membership to view the content you are trying to access. Please login to continue.
Join us today, Society membership is open to anyone with a passion for geography
Cookies on the RGS website