Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"HC: Victorian Women, Urban Violence and Digital Mapping"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Fall 2017 - DURI
Research area(s):
Gender and sexuality; urban studies; digital humanities; literature; journalism; sociology; history
Project Description:
This research project will spatially map Victorian women’s habitation of the city and their encounters with urban violence. Scholarship on nineteenth-century London has extensively addressed the dramatic, spectacular moments of sexual-violence against women. This is best epitomized in the studies of the serial killer Jack the Ripper, and his impact on the lives of women in East End. What demands further investigation, however, are the more mundane ways in which women experienced crime and violence in the city – the general air of dread in streets, hostile glances, leering comments, and ‘flirtatious’ sexual advances that women had to contend with. This project proposes to diversify the discourse around “violence against women” by excavating/mapping these quotidian violations. These may not have led to a gruesome murder or a sensational assault; yet, they constitute a crucial, but overlooked, dimension of gendered urban life. In order to draw attention to these non-eventful, everyday forms of gendered urban-violence this project will examine novels, periodicals and photographs between 1850-1900. My methodology is twofold. First, we closely analyze the ways in which novelistic, journalistic and visual texts create a rhetoric of women out and about in the city, paying special attention to how they depict women’s encounters with urban violence. The goal, here, will be to recover the literary and visual apparatuses that routinized, as inevitable, violent encounters as part and parcel of women’s urban living. Second, I will create and analyze (with help from my faculty collaborators and undergraduate researchers) digitally mapped intra-city journeys undertaken by both fictional and historical women of Victorian London. This will entail plotting and tracking, onto real Victorian maps, the streets, alleys, and neighborhoods charted by women. These maps will also geographically identify what I call “forgotten-flashpoints” – the un-remembered spaces where women encountered non-evental violence on their daily routes. In doing so, we will be able to produce geospatial data that can help us visualize what women’s mobility, and navigation of hostile urban environments looked like. Ultimately, through this analysis, I am committed to recovering the irrepressible ways in which Victorian women continued to chart their way through an urban landscape. After all, it is both the history of this quotidian violence and the resistance against it, that have, in a sense, been unconsciously inherited by future generations of women – even into the 21st century – as they continue their search for a metropolitanism that isn’t held hostage by the fear of violence.
Expected Student Contributions:
I would like to work with a team of four undergraduate researchers, divided into two teams. The first team, of two researchers, will be responsible for: a)Reading/scanning the relevant archival material shortlisted by me. The students will be able to read the shorter documents (letters, articles, illustrations etc.), and will be able to do word searches on the longer documents (novels) that are digitized. b)Making entries in the database that Nicole Kong and I will have created. By coding the written/visual text into a schematized format (on an excel sheet), they will lay out the information about female mobility into different variables: place-names mentioned; age/class of the female character; type of journey: personal, professional, leisure; mode of travel: pedestrian, vehicular; type of experience: pleasant, unpleasant, violent (what grade of violence was experienced?) etc. The second team of undergraduates will: a)Digitally map the coded/schematized information. Their goal will be to recreate, onto a map, the actual journeys taken by women. b)Identify on the mapped journey, the locations where these women encountered a moment of “everyday violence” and see the impact it had on their mobility – did it halt progress, make women change their route etc.?
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
Student has to be enrolled in the Honors College; GPA: 3.5. I would require two researchers with interest in and capacity for reading historical documents, nineteenth-century letters to editors and viewing newspaper/magazine illustrations. I am confident that anyone with a proclivity for creatively interpreting and organizing data would be a perfect fit for this task. In addition, it would be an asset to have two students interested in learning/with prior knowledge of GIS and digital mapping. Nicole King has assured me that she can very quickly train students in the basics of GIS, and give them the tools they would require to get started on the project. I am certain that Honors students from all disciplines could work in either of the two teams.
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 3 credit hours

Professor in Charge

Anwer, Megha
honors college

Student Supervisor

Megha Anwer
Clinical Assistant Professor

Cooperating Faculty

Nicole Kong
Library Sciences