The “Making Literature” Conference Experience

By Isaha Cook


The Team

On February 26, 2015, a group of DLR students—Esther Wolfe, Daniel Brount, Jeff Owens, Bryce Longenberger, and Isaha Cook—traveled to Taylor University to attend the “Making Literature” conference. If I were to say that the DLR team’s efforts at the conference were epic in their nature, my exaggeration would only be a minor one. It takes a few special individuals to go from opening for a main act, to becoming the sole act in only a few productively panicked moments. While they were preparing to be followed by the conference’s keynote speaker for that night, Miho Nonaka, the team was informed that Miho was stuck in bad weather and would not make it on time. Our team members were then asked if they could stretch their fifteen-minute presentation while the conference organizers found a way to cover the loss of their keynote speaker. Of course, like academic superheroes, the members of DLR humbly agreed to give it their best.

Esther and the team decided that it would be best to proceed with the original plan and present on the Digital Literature Review’s ins and outs, current topics, and the upcoming issue for next year. Then, each team member would, on the spot, explain their own individual research projects, something that they had not planned on discussing. In this way, the team members would each get to expand the total presentation time, while also further illuminating potential forthcoming work in the DLR’s second issue, Slavery Now.

The first part of the presentation went smoothly. Esther started off by explaining her role as the lead of the Editorial team for the DLR, and laying out how the process worked for members of that team. She explained that members of the Editorial team took part in reviewing submissions, producing acceptance or denial letters, and finally slogging through the task of ensuring that each accepted article was perfect in the areas of grammar and structure. Following her, Daniel spoke about his role as the leader of the Design team. He explained the process: brainstorming, refining, and layout. Members of the Design team were responsible for the creation of advertising materials, the designing of the cover art, and the layout of the inner pages where the articles are found. He provided examples of some of the design elements they were currently working on for Slavery Now.

The Presentation

The Presentation

Lastly, the two other members of the presentation team, Bryce and Jeff, explained the responsibilities of the Publicity team and how our WordPress blog was being run to promote the issue before its release. They also went on to promote the DLR’s involvement with the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter. In tandem, the two were able to clearly explain the duties that a member of the Publicity team performed: creating content for our social media, overseeing the publication of blog posts on our WordPress site, and ensuring that the advertisement materials are disseminated to the proper places.

Under the watchful gaze of instructors, students, and the conference organizers, our courageous DLR members finished the initial presentation and stretched their fifteen minutes into a glorious main event lasting nearly an hour. They explained, one after another, the various research projects related to “Slavery Now” that they had been working individually on for a semester and more. They spoke about delicate topics from how best to represent slavery issues to a modern world, to how authors can broach the sensitive subject with younger readers.

The audience members seemed to take to the personalities of our presenting members, but, more than that, they recognized the passion that Esther, Daniel, Jeff, and Bryce had for the content of this year’s DLR issue. Our team spoke with intelligence, precision, and passion, inciting the audience to pepper them with questions and positive feedback. As the DLR team left the stage, a good portion of the audience lined up to continue the discussions on a more personal basis, and I couldn’t help but wonder: “What’s in store for our release, if we can garner this much interest with improvisational efforts?” I do know that I look forward to it with great eagerness.


Slavery Now: The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade in the Sudan

By: Lauren Lutz

Living in the United States, it is sometimes difficult to recognize that slavery exists outside of the history of the Americas. The trans-Atlantic chattel slave trade is what is taught about in school, what is seen in films and television, and what is recognized as a collective history within American culture. However, if one can analyze history outside of the Americas, there is a much older chattel slave trade in the world’s history that ran long after the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended. It is important for Americans to acknowledge that slavery is a current international problem that did not end after the U.S. Civil War so that victims in other parts of the world can get the exposure and help they need.

During the time of the Roman Empire, the Romans established a slave trade stretching south from North Africa all the way down to the Sahara and Sub-Saharan Africa. Arabs invaded the North African Roman territory in the 7th and 8th centuries during the Arab Conquests and took over this slave trade. For nearly a 1000 years, Arabs used that slave trade system to take Africans from the Sahara and Sub-Saharan regions and use them for various forms of labor in North Africa. Arabs have notoriously raided African villages and stolen people for domestic service, agricultural work, mineral extraction, military service, industry and commerce, and administration (Alexander 44-9). A country that has been particularly affected by this slave trade is Sudan. Its current status as a country has been highly influenced by the long history of exploitation of its black African people. Not only has this history of raiding villages and enslaving inhabitants caused a great amount of tension between Arabs and black Africans in Sudan, but it also has taken the lives of countless  innocent victims.

In Sudan in the 1980s, there was a rebellion from the African south when the mostly Arab government tried to impose Sharia laws upon the entire country. This caused a civil war, and Arab raids on African villages were unfortunately common. Many young women were abducted, such as Abuk Bak from a small Dinka village (Bak 39-40). An Arab family enslaved her for 10 years until she ran away because of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. She lost her family, her identity, and her freedom. She was a runaway slave in the year 1997, which is difficult to conceptualize if you are only used to thinking of slavery as a past event that has been resolved (Bak 41-55). She became a refugee after escaping her master. This is a story shared by many other Sudanese people who were abducted and sold into this chattel slave trade.

Currently, South Sudan has gained independence and is attempting to piece together a peaceful government. However, slavery lingers over its culture and people, as its effects are still visible. Many Arabs and black African Sudanese people do not openly acknowledge the existence of the chattel slave trade, so it is a sort of repressed collective history. This attitude towards the slave trade kept it largely unnoticed by the international world until the 1990s.

It is obvious from the past and current history of Sudan that slavery is impacting the lives of many people, such as Abuk Bak. As an American, if issues of modern slavery concern you, it is important to educate yourself so you can understand where it is still a problem. Slavery didn’t disappear after the US Civil War, even in the United States. For example, on the anti-slavery organization End Slavery Now’s website, they post daily headlines about international current events involving slavery. There are about 30 million people enslaved in the world today, and learning more about this problem can spur us to action that could be beneficial for all of them.


Works Cited

Alexander, J. “Islam, archaeology and slavery in Africa.” World Archaeology 33.1 (2001): 44-60. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Bak, Abuk. “Beyond Abeeda: Surviving Ten Years of Slavery in Sudan.” Enslaved: Stories of Modern Day Slavery. Ed. Jesse Sage and Liora Kasten. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. 39-60. Print.