This project has important implications for the study of gender, race, religion, and the digital humanities. The purpose of The Black Goddess Rising Archive is four-fold; first, to make digitized and born-digital images of black goddesses – African and African Diasporic goddesses specifically- more accessible for the general public and researchers by bringing them together; second, to collect user-generated videos that engage digital performances and communicative practices related to black goddesses and black womanhood; third, to include black women and their networked digital discourses as research subjects, and lastly, to discuss strategies and best practices for archiving digital visual objects that represent black goddesses.
While the digital humanities have been described as a historical refuge from race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, and nationality, the goal of this archive is to consider methodological and theoretical frameworks for situating digital humanities in relation to questions of difference. Although still in its beginning phase, the Black Goddess Rising Archive represents a humanities-based approach to digitized religious visual culture that understands archives as worlding technologies entrenched within broader cultural struggles that challenge, shape, and remediate gender, race, religion and other identity categories.
As an example of black cyberfeminist/cyberwomanist theoretical and methodological interventions into the digital sphere, the Black Goddess Rising Archive reflects a critical approach to digital humanities.
How are US black women using digital technologies and social networking platforms to affirm and celebrate the Divine Black Feminine and black womanhood? Is there a reclamation of African/Diasporic/Black goddesses happening online or are there multiple social actors engaging black goddesses, with some using them as symbolic resources for older, more politically conservative racialized and gendered agendas? Are black women (and men) turning to goddess imagery and narratives as a way of creating counter-narratives to negative representations of black women often found in commercial media? Or are they creating a new form of networked spiritual YOUpowerment?
Spiritual YOUpowerment is a conceptual framework that speaks to the types of everyday peer-to-peer digital practices enacted by Internet users to assist them in attaining personal or communal spiritual goals and empowerment. Social networking and file-sharing platform users (as seekers/creators) engage in participatory and networked practices in order to create, circulate, collaborate, discuss, locate, or even become these resources.
I argue that US black women’s networked digital discourses on black goddesses often use the imagery and tropes of African Diasporic/Black goddesses to advocate for a more earth-honoring, self and community healing, sex-positive spirituality rooted in what are perceived to be African Diasporic/Black womanhood ideals. These ideals of the Divine Feminine and black womanhood affect understandings and roles of black women in society.