What can we learn by turning Mohandas Gandhi’s extensive archive of writing into discrete forms of “data”?

This project employs new digital technologies to reconstruct and visualize Gandhi’s discourse and political communities present in his extensive (and digitally available) writings. In doing so, it aims to use Gandhi’s writings as an entry point into the larger social, political, and intellectual environment that shaped the formulation and spread of nonviolence in the twentieth century.  This project is in its early stages. On this website, you will find a set of digital experiments with network visualization, focusing on elements of Gandhi’s discourse communities and geographical references. The long-term goal is to provide a set of network visualizations (eventually interactive) that can help us see the bigger picture of Gandhi’s political life and communities as a means to critically explore twentieth century global politics.

In addition to contributing to the intellectual and political history of twentieth century social protest and activism, the project also explores the prospects and limits of digital methodologies in historical inquiry. Indeed, as readers will note in my research process blog, the “datafication” of Gandhi’s writings rest upon a series of methodological decisions that must be made explicit. In this light, the project also considers (and seeks to reveal) the organizational and methodological assumptions underlying network visualizations and utilizing new digital tools of analysis to study a figure like Gandhi and intellectual-political communities of the twentieth century.