Text Network: Genre and Geography


This map represents these modes of organizing and sorting the texts in the Makandal network in two different layers: by primary and secondary sources and as sources by data type, or genre. In the first layer, all of the texts in this network have been classified as primary or secondary sources. In the second layer, the information is exactly the same except that texts are represented visually by data type with different colors representing different genres of documents. Both maps contain the exact same information except the differences in classification and the texts are mapped by the place of publication. For these maps, we have approximated locations. Historical georeferencing is a complex and detailed field of study. For the purposes of these maps, we approximated as best we could to locations by town. 

Users can toggle between the two different map layers, exploring the geographical distribution of the texts. The map is interactive; you can zoom in and out, clicking on data points to get more information about each text including title, author, palace of publication, date, and repository. While these layers vary by classification they both demonstrate circulation and proliferation, pointing to the ways Makandal’s narrative becomes known through spectatorship and commodification. As you explore the map, what observations and relationships do you notice? What ways does mapping the network in a geographical representation address new ways of reading the Makandal text network? 

Genre and Geography

Traditional means of ordering and representing historic documents focus on information about the texts: when was a text published? Who is the author? What is the genre? As we compiled the texts of Makandal’s narrative, the materials spanned a wide range of dates, authors, and genres. There are primary source documents about Makandal’s life including the letters of Lenormand de Mézy and the judicial report following Makandal’s execution in 1758; there are also secondary sources that follow the circulation and proliferation of Makandal’s narrative including historic and literary representations of his character in myth, pantomimes, and novels. 

The distinctions between primary and secondary sources defines a certain type of knowledge and perspective about narrative and history and our relationship to it. It prioritizes primary documents in ways that easily erase circulation, myth, and legacy. In the context of Makandal’s narrative, many of the texts in this network are tied to colonial power from where they were written and published to where original documents are held in archives and libraries. If instead of using primary and secondary criteria to sort and organize the texts but genre, what additional information can we learn? What is the distribution of texts in this network by genre and how does genre relate to colonial power and archives?