Diasporic and Ex-patriate records

Bradley Hall C/D

Thursday July 12, 2012

10:45-12:15 PM

Presenters: Amalia Levi, Vivian Wong, Yunkeum Kim Chang

Amalia Levi

Reifying Collective Memory and Identity through User-Contributed Content in Ethnic Archives and Museums. The case of the Balkan Jewish communities.

New technologies are shattering physical borders and temporal boundaries. In the case of diasporas, networks have given rise to mythical, imaginary homelands that redefine the idea of belonging. If nostalgia denotes the metaphorical, albeit quasi-physical, ache for return, where do we return to when we are supposedly living in a borderless world?
Memory institutions (libraries, archives, museums—concisely LAMs) hold the dispersed records of diasporas, and have traditionally reflected the master narratives of the state apparatuses and community elites. Curatorial control to the user-contributed content in social media applications that will eventually “make it” into the public eye perpetuate such practices and seldom incorporate such content into the official record. Archival literature focuses on LAMs using social media as a way to involve their users and form communities of knowledge around their holdings. My proposed research will explore how diasporic users can enhance the contextual understanding of records by taking them out of institutional stability and structures. Do social media provide the optimum way for user contributions? What about Linked Open Data? How can people mobilize records across transnational trajectories, redefining authority and reliability? How can this enable revisions of minority histories? The above issues will be examined through the lens of the diaspora of the Balkan Jewish communities.

Vivian Wong

Writing “home(s)”: Composing the transpacific Asian/American women archive in letters and diaries

In the middle of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s busy capital city, sits a house that is out of place and from a different time.  It is made of wood and built on stilts, but placed among luxury hotels, corporate high-rises, and sprawling shopping malls in a posh part of town.  Built around the mid-1920s to the 1930s in a small village in Kedah, 1 it was transported, restored, and rebuilt in its present urban space in 1996 by a local non-government organization committed to the preservation of Malaysia’s history and culture through the restoration of its architectural structures in villages, towns, and cities around the country. 2 The public can tour the house and I did that one hot day in July 2008.  The tour was conducted in English and the tour guide was a young Malay woman dressed in traditional Malaysian dress, fully covered in a long gown and headscarf in keeping with the Muslim customs of modesty.  The tour group consisted of three college-age women from Scotland who were on summer holiday and me, a second-generation Malaysian Chinese American woman visiting her Malaysian Chinese relatives.  The three-room house was a time capsule and the objects in it used to represent Malaysian home-life from a different era were like talismans that triggered memories from my childhood in America.  The experience transported me to another time and place far from the present and into my past.  I simultaneously recalled and relived my past associations with them as the tour guide demonstrated and described each item to us in the living space.  A simple wooden toy brought me back to the family room of my own home in Maryland, as I sat on the carpet playing a game similar to jacks with my grandmother who migrated from Malaysia when I was eight years old.  I share this episode from my summer travels as a point of entry to what I will explore in this paper, “Writing home: Composing the transpacific Asian/American women archive in letters and diaries”.  How I came to embody this moment and the memories it invoked are tied to journeys — journeys that are simultaneously and indivisibly physical and immaterial, emotional and intellectual, and personal and communal.  These journeys joining me and my family, while also linking us to the diverse Asian, Chinese, and Malaysian immigrant communities nationally, internationally, and trans-nationally, are the movements to locate home in those diasporas through travel: migration and immigration.  And they are processes that displace and replace “home” in multiple spaces, where “home” is re-imagined in the continuing dynamics of dislocation and location.

Using examples from the presenter’s film: (1) an autoethnographic video diary recounting her experiences as a second-generation Chinese American and her relationship to her grandmother from Malaysia; and (2) letters written by her mother to her family back home in Malaysia while she was college student studying in America in the 1960s, “Writing home: Composing the transpacific Asian/American women in letters and diaries” charts the personal travel narratives of three Asian and Asian American women.  It serves as an intervention the understanding of record-making practice in “the archives  and narrative genres of self (i.e. memories or creative nonfiction; travelogues or travel literature) as women’s words and voices articulate acts that collect intimate histories and coalesce collective experiences to inscribe “home” in the diaspora.  Where “home” exists embodied, experienced, and expressed as the every practices of peoples and their memories of homeland(s) inscribe evidences of sentimental belongings — and longings – in home places/spaces that traverse geographical boundaries and national borders and transforms the emotional landscape of transpacific Asian women im/migrant.

Asian American historian Gary Okihiro writes that “geographies are neither predetermined nor fixed; spaces … [they] are freighted with the significances that we ascribe to them” and there can be multiple homes.For the itinerant female figure, home is both a place and process; simultaneously fixed, yet always becoming.  It is one’s homeland, but also an adopted country. It is tied to nationalism, but also remixed with naturalization and citizenship.  Then there are the places one chooses to call home: self-selected, constructed spaces shaped by individual will – intimate acts that bind us to home(s) and memories of home(s).

Yunkeum Kim Chang

Digital Archiving Strategies for the Records of Early Foreign Missionaries in Korea (1800-1910)

In the late nineteenth century, Protestant foreign missionaries started entering Korea as teachers, translators, medical workers, reporters, and as other professional workers as the nation opened its doors to western countries. Even though their primary purposes revolved around evangelism, they also introduced elements of western culture into Korea. Their influence, which included the opening of the first western medical facilities and higher education institutions with western values, had a significant role in the modernization of Korea during that time period. The records of early Protestant foreign missionaries in Korea can be found in mission reports, letters, medical work records, missionary personal diaries, letters, published writings, and photos. These historical records are scattered in various places, including missionaries’ home country church archives, government archives, Korean church archives, scholarly collections, and private collections.

This research focuses on developing a sustainable digital archive system for long-term preservation and use that can support services between institutions and countries.  The study covers the period from 1800 to 1910, from the beginning of Protestant missionaries’ activities for Korea until the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910.


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