Indigenous and Postcolonial Archives

Bradley Hall C/D

Friday July 13, 2012

1:30-3:00 PM

Presenters: Allison Krebs, Shannon Faulkhead, Ellen-Rae Cachola

Allison Krebs

Archival Creative Friction: Mapping Decision Points in the Archive

Information is a strategic Indigenous asset that has historically been extracted from Indigenous communities.  Concurrently, scholarship concerning Indigenous peoples is dependent on an intimate relationship with information in the form of archival materials which includes the creation of these resources during research, their disposition following research, as well as the critical investigation and commentary on previously collected resources.

Indigenous scholars are actively articulating archival information praxis, policy, and theory in support of Indigenous peoplehood.   This research contextualizes the archival creative friction catalyzed by the historical pattern of information flow away from Indigenous communities into the archival diaspora, the impact of the relatively recent passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),  and the dynamic development of Indigenous related protocols.  Given this context this research proposes a curriculum initiative to support archivists in proactively engaging Indigenous protocols at critical decision points within their praxis.

Shannon Faulkhead

Indigenous Peoples: Living Archive

Over the past three years I have been working with two projects–the ‘Holding Gunditjmara Knowledge: People and Records Working Together’ and the ‘Monash Country Lines Archives (MCLA) Program ( Both projects working within the concept of a ‘living archive’ as a decolonised space in which communities are happy to see their material stored, and how such an archive operates with Indigenous peoples from Australia. This presentation will be drawing upon findings form the ‘Holding Gunditjmara Knoweldge’ project, and the current learnings from the MCLA.

Ellen-Rae Cachola

 Reading Vigan from a Postcolonial Archival Lens

Drawing from the text Selected Subaltern Studies, the postcolonial researcher’s reading of the “subaltern” in colonial records revealed how written documentations often put the subaltern in unfavorable light. The subaltern was characterized negatively because he/she was rebelling against the colonial record creator’s presence and culture. The text suggests a need for a self-reflexive reading of colonial history.  It isn’t about “knowing” or “getting” the subaltern because that claim of the postcolonial researcher would reproduce another assumption of “discovery” that would fixate the subaltern as a subject in the researcher’s own meta-narrative, without reflecting on his/her position within academia, an institution part of larger systems of western cultural domination.  Thus, I define my use of the postcolonial archival lens as studying records of colonial development, to follow traces of the subaltern–not to “get” the subaltern, but to focus on the conditions that created the subaltern, and if its possible to address the legacies of these conditions in the present day.

I employed this theoretical framework through discursive analysis of captions on monuments and museum exhibits in Vigan’s Historic Core Zone.  Vigan is the capital city of Ilocos Sur, which is a province on the northwest coast of Luzon island, Philippines.  In 1999, Vigan was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List to preserve the city’s architecture and cultural artifacts that reflected 16th century Spanish colonial presence in the region.  By studying the “Vigan Dossier” that documents how Vigan became a World Heritage Site, I study the politics of historical and cultural discourse that postcolonial cultural heritage workers in Vigan had to navigate in order to address local issues of unemployment and poverty through cultural heritage market development. The story of Ilocano history in Vigan’s Historic Core Zone is framed by Spanish colonial dominance architecturally and interpretively.  In addition, the whole political-economic landscape that Vigan and the Ilocos region is presently situated is based on urban planning introduced by the Spaniards in the 16th century. I also analyzed the contents of monument and museum narratives, and how these publicly portray Eurocentric and nationalist discourses of Ilocano history and identity. The prominence of these narratives submerged connections across the traces of indigenous historical perspectives, which could be sources to critically analyze Ilocano colonization and postcolonial internalized oppression.  I find that reading Vigan as a postcolonial archival landscape requires a dialectical framework in which the records of differing cultural and historical perspectives can be read side by side, yet contextualized within their own narratives of history. This disaggregation of contexts can reveal how traces of Vigan played a role in global imperial schemes, and also, how other traces of Vigan reveal Ilocano indigeneity and anticolonial resistance. From here, is it possible to create an archival interpretation of place that can resonate with the contradicting historical memories of contemporary Ilocano subjects?


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