Blog #1: Family / Archives

Our 2016 blogging begins! As you write, keep in mind the goals for this term’s blog: posts that are research contributions. These posts are your ways to practice your academic writing muscles in preparation for your research papers, so use them to help you meet your writing goals for the semester. So, posts are not just personal, not just observational, but are exploring ideas and issues through analyzing specific texts. I expect links. I like to see scholars’ and others’ voices orchestrated with your own. The posts introduce their ideas and wrap up (rather than just ending). Note that you have more room to do this work: 500-700 words.

This week you’ll write, as usual, on texts of your choice that connect in some way that you make explicit to our course. So you could certainly write about the archives we studied in class (PARI, the 2 TRCs in relation to archives, Mass Observation). You could write about other archives you’ve found, or about materials you looked at in Rare Books on Thursday. Those of you who went to the Museum of Anthropology’s c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city exhibit could talk about that visit in relation to the ideas and issues of our course. As always, be sure you’re extending the conversation beyond what we already talked about together.

You also might take up topics about or inspired by Diamond Grill: e.g., biotexts or food memoirs or High Muck-a-Muck or the contemporary Canadian long poem or poems by on prison walls by Chinese immigrants, etc. You could look ahead to our discussion of The Race Card Project. Another direction inspired by our discussions of the complicated genealogy of the book would be to think more about Diamond Grill as a family memoir, a topic we’ll take up in other texts we’ll study this term. Wah (Jr) is not, of course, writing in a vacuum. As he acknowledges, he’s writing about his family. In an essay on The Conversation (a website in which scholars write for a general public, just like you will in your archives projects), sociologist Ashley Barnwell considers the ethics of the family memoir, looking at several instances of life narratives in which family members who were represented by these texts rejected, resented, or publicly protested the versions of the family that the author produced. Not only is Barnwell’s analysis relevant to our discussions, it’s also a cross-disciplinary encounter in action: how a sociologist reads life narratives (vs our readings as literary and cultural studies scholars). You could introduce and respond to her ideas by thinking about these issues in relation to Wah’s text or other life narratives.

Googling “family memoir” just now, looking for something to link to, I got tonnes of hits for sites on how to write a family (such as this one but there were many more). A great subject for a blog post or research paper would be to gather examples of books or websites about how to write life narratives, and analyze them (what do these guides suggest about how life narratives are understood? Etc.).

Posts are due Mon noon, comments Tuesday at 9:30 (don’t forget to post your comments on this post, rather than on the individual blogs), and be ready in class to discuss connections between the blogs and points they raised that you’d like to take up.

22 comments

  1. n response to Seana’s blog: Prior to reading your blog post, I have heard about ancestry.com but not about findmypast.com. I recall signing up to try the free trial for ancestry, but to my surprise, I found no searches for Chipo Chipaziwa. A similar thing occurred when I attempted to use findmypast.com. I felt rather frustrated because it would be nice to trace my roots, especially since I don’t know much about where they start from. Perhaps I shouldn’t start with websites but rather by asking family members, maybe even consulting the DNA genetic testing and analysis company ‘23andMe’. Tracing my roots and finding my ancestors is something I have plan to do during some point of my lifetime, I am curious to see what I will discover.

    In response to Tanvi’s blog: I found myself really enjoying looking through The Race Card Project. I agree with you when you wrote about the post titled “So I Am an ALIEN, Apparently”, it caught my eye as well. Having moved from country to country since I was born, I empathize with the writer of this post because although my passport is one from Zimbabwe, it’s almost full with visas. Additionally, the post you mentioned titled “I’m surprised you speak so well” was one I related to because thanks to stereotypes, people quickly develop an idea of who I will be based off the color of my skin.

    In response to Shaan’s blog: On Saturday, I travelled to Deep Cove to go a hike. Whilst I was there, I saw a mural on the side of one of the buildings. The mural depicted the town of Deep Cove but to the far left of the picture, there appears to be what I thought a ghost head of a first nations male watching cover the town. I was so captured by the image that I took a photo of it and have since been showing people the very picture. The mural reminded me of how dreadful first nations people and other specific groups of individuals have been treated in the past. However, the past isn’t an accurate term to use as this injustice treatment is still going currently.
    Here’s a picture of the mural I am referring to: http://www.ourbc.com/travel_bc/bc_cities/vancouver_coast/photos/deep_cove/cove_mural_01_640.jpg

  2. In response to Joe: Wow, this actually made me really hungry for pasta now. But more to the point, your blog makes an excellent connection to Diamond Grill as half of the book’s story of Fred Wah’s family is told through the food made at the grill. The same would apply to the family recipes you described which have been passed down to you from your grandmother and father. From the dishes you described, the pasta sounds super good and hopefully it keeps getting passed down. I connect so vividly to your dad’s pasta dish because my dad is big on his pasta recipes too, but I have yet to learn the recipe (I think your post just gave me an incentive haha). I would have never guessed food could be of such archival significance until I read Diamond Grill. Great post!

    In response to Jewel: Your blog post makes an excellent point about consent in terms of posting about family affairs on social media. In our continuously advancing world of technology and the internet, the line between consent has been blurred when it comes to what a person wants to have shared or does not. Justin Halpern’s use of his father’s consent is impressive and shows that due diligence was taken to ensure that he was happy and so was his father. I agree with your analysis that “the past has a direct influence on the present and future” especially in terms of family interactions because speaking from experience, an argument with a family member does not just get put under a rug, it tends to persist until a full apology occurs from the people involved. I will be sure to follow Justin’s Twitter page, nothing beats really honest adults. Very intriguing post!

    In response to Seana: Ancestry.com was an excellent choice for a blog! When I read your post I was like “yeah! why should we pay to trace our own family lineage!” however I guess we can see that Archives are becoming a promising business as well. As Chipo mentioned above, I was also unable to find my family’s past on the website but that could be due to the fact that the records are scattered all over (India, New Zealand and Canada) and I guarantee the humidity in India pulverized the records to beyond recognition. More to the point though, I have actually never heard of findmypast.com but as you were saying, it is indeed hard to navigate and in our age of ease of access, neatness is key to that ease so if it came to neatness, I would happily navigate Ancestry even if it was for a fee of $9.99. It is amazing to see how ancestry.com has grown, I still remember watching the first few ads they had at my grandma’s house in East Vancouver, they seem to now be leading the way in a world archive project highlighted in your readings of how they are now transcribing slave records. Great post!

  3. In response to Shaan: I think you raise interesting points in your post regarding indigenous people’s issues in Canada. Obviously a mere statement of apology (http://caid.ca/CanPMApol061108.pdf) is not sufficient on its own; the Canadian government must find ways to honour and maintain its relationship with the indigenous groups. And it’s not just the Canadian government – as you brought up with the advertisements for condos, all Canadians need to be educated on respecting first nations land. This is why it is absolutely crucial to maintain archives like the c̓əsnaʔəm one at the Museum of Anthropology. I have yet to check it out but after reading your post and Kaz’s (http://blogs.ubc.ca/kshigeta/2016/01/25/the-collective-knowledge-c%CC%93%C9%99sna%CA%94%C9%99m-exhibit/) I would be interested to check it out and learn more.

    In response to Nana: It was heartbreaking reading through the Angel Island Immigration Station Poetry you referred to in your blog post. It reminded me of some of the writing that was found inside some of the concentration camps during World War II. One prisoner had written “If there is a God, he will have to beg my forgiveness” in the wall of his cell before being executed in a gas chamber. I find it interesting how despite all the rights and freedoms robbed of these prisoners, they still manage to find small ways to speak out – and essentially, fight back. (Source: Walters, Brian. Searching for the Holy Grail: My Travels in Western Europe. p. 165.)

    In response to Tanvi: I liked your point about the power of The Race Card Project in allowing more people to speak and more discussion to take place. It made me think back to Rodney G.S. Carter’s idea of giving the marginalized a chance to speak and be heard. I think that The Race Card actually presents evidence of silences. By allowing so many more people to speak, we get to see that many people actually have a lot to say. Where would these “tens of thousands” of stories end up without The Race Card project? Without such a platform they might have been “silenced”.

  4. -In response to Jewel’s blog: I found some of these twitter posts extremely funny and what I found very intriguing about this feed and these phrases said by Justin’s father is how in the moment they are. They are not only of the struggles or achievements of Justin and others his father comments on. They depict the often comical, colloquial dialogue of this family. This is something which I think is very interesting as it is possible that many traditional archives, those not available on line, are not available to follow as they are built and therefore I question whether archives are in fact becoming less formal and more representing every day events that in the past.

    -In response to Colleen’s blog: After reading Colleen’s blog I was amazed that she was able to trace back her family so far and it made me consider how many people would be unable to do this due to the “unnatural silences” that Rodney Carter discusses in his article. Whilst it is probably near to impossible to record and keep track of every family I begin to wonder how so many groups, in some cases entire cultures have been silenced and therefore are unable to experience the amazing feeling that Colleen had of finding out so much about her ancestors. I question how the internet can allow individual families to document and record their own history of the present so that future generations will have access to it without the need of an archive in a given location, such as the museum in Shetland, and how this will facilitate so many more records being kept.

    -In response to Emily’s blog: In Emily’s blog she discusses the metaphorical and literal role food plays in Diamond Grill by Fred Wah. After reading her blog and from her explanation of the prominent symbol of food in so many cultures, it led me contemplate the role that cook books play in cultural memory and how each cook book offers a different approach to create a combination of new and innovative whilst often traditional, cultural foods. Would one consider a cook book to be an archive? Family recipes are treasured and passed down generations and may feature in archives. But I question how a cultural symbol such as food can act as this metaphor, linking cultures without having the intention of doing so providing an aid of remembering the past.

  5. Charlotte- I was so excited when I saw the topic of your blog because I had a similar topic, the idea of easily accessible archives. While I understand the want to preserve archives through the protection of limited access, I think it takes away any power that the archive can hold. What is the point of having great archives if only part of the population has access to them and anyone else who wishes to research them can only do so through the lens of someone else work on them, not the original documents. I think the more documents that can be made available, the better, we should be pushing for everyone to have access to as much information as possible as to not let archives, and the lessons that can be learned from them, be lost.

    Anna-
    Your post hit a personal cord. I think as women the transition into sexuality is often one that involves shame, either internal or external. I think because the images that we are exposed to are overly sexualized, women are taught that certain parts of our body are taboo and even to speak about them is inappropriate. I think part of the way we can move away from this culture of hyper sexualizing women is by providing examples of woman’s bodies being just that, bodies. Woman refusing to be ashamed and silenced by societies idea of “correct behaviour” is helping to change the ways in which woman see themselves and the power they can feel over their own life.

    Jewel-
    I think the main distinction between the two types of text is “My Struggle” goes into great detail and provides a lot of information about the people included in the book. On the other hand, the #shitmydadsays are small snap shots- while some of them aren’t always flattering they are meant to be humorous. “My Struggle” seems to not have warned the people in it about the extent to which they are exposed, it seems like the dad in the twitter account has full knowledge about what is being put out there and is okay with it. The question also should be asked about how much one person archives should reveal about others. If a person chooses to put everything out there I think there should be exclusion for material that would effect others.

  6. n response to Seana’s blog: Prior to reading your blog post, I have heard about ancestry.com but not about findmypast.com. I recall signing up to try the free trial for ancestry, but to my surprise, I found no searches for Chipo Chipaziwa. A similar thing occurred when I attempted to use findmypast.com. I felt rather frustrated because it would be nice to trace my roots, especially since I don’t know much about where they start from. Perhaps I shouldn’t start with websites but rather by asking family members, maybe even consulting the DNA genetic testing and analysis company ‘23andMe’. Tracing my roots and finding my ancestors is something I have plan to do during some point of my lifetime, I am curious to see what I will discover.

  7. In response to Zoey
    I really liked what you said about how an assortment of material can be put together to form a bigger picture. It is amazing how these archives have formed from small bits of information to create a group history that can be accessed and learned from. And as important as that history is, your observation about the importance of protecting an individual’s right to privacy is very true. Also, you point out the need to give people time before producing records relating to an event, such as the time given before releasing records from the Holocaust, I think that an even more significant consideration is that those relating to the incident are notified and give their consent. The residential schools, more than they need time, need to be given a choice about whether they want their information shared, and that decision should be respected.

    In response to Tanvi
    Your blog does a great job of showing how the internet can be a tool that allows people to share their story who might not be able to otherwise. Already, in our second semester we have accessed several archives by using the internet; the internet has provided an easy and efficient way that provides access to far more people than a physical place can. I also found your connection to the “Race card” very interesting. This is a very good example of how someone might not be able to share their story another way because of the risks. On the internet, a certain level of anonymousness is allowed, and provides a safe place for sharing.

    In response to Emily
    I liked the connection you have made between Fred Wah’s use of food in his novel and the Chinese saying about how “to the people, food is heaven.” Your blog shows just how important food is to the Chinese, which helped me to better understand Wah’s novel, and the importance of “pure” Chinese food versus “impure, and how it might not be valued in the same way, as “heaven”. I also thought that your comparison of “pure” versus “impure” Chinese food to a “pure” versus “impure” human was interesting. In the same way that impure Chinese food might not be as accepted by a China-living Chinese person, the same reaction might face Wah because he is not purely Chinese. I did not realize when I read the novel that Wah is, in a sense, similar to the mixee grill.

  8. in response to Kaz:
    Sounds like a really neat exhibit! I still have yet to go and visit the museum. I agree with you that it seems that there is much value in having those who experienced the events in which are being archived have total control in what is both included and omitted for archival documentation. Your post also has me thinking about perspective, I wonder about the sentimentality, or theme, of archival documents and how that may change whether they are arranged by an archivist or the affiliated community. I also wonder if in some cases (not making any claims, just thinking outl oud), having people themselves organize the archives could create a bias whereas perhaps an archivist could potentially work as a middle man in some conflict related cases and include all essential information of both sides. I agree that having archival information in a museum setting is great for education, and you seem to have benefited a lot from from the c̓əsnaʔəm exhibit. It could be neat if the archives could arrange maybe a weekly showcase of their archives that routinely switch out for educational and interest purposes.

    In response to Emily:
    I like how deep you have gone with your analysis of food in Diamond Grill! Your post shows that you put lots of research into it and that’s super commendable :). I especially like your paragraph about food bringing together the past and present, it is so true that culturally and over time, food habits really do underline the ways of a culture and you can get so much information about a group from that, and especially through new analysis of the adaptations of their traditional dishes to their own creation to represent the change in their cultural identity. There is indeed such an emotional connection from the food on a persons plate, and I hadn’t previously thought about it this way.

    In response to Anna:
    Your blog post this week is super intriguing! I really like that as an archival document it provides so much direction and perspective for women in our world and serves as positive inspiration for the future, and I love the notion that our bodies are natural and not to be used as sex appeal. I’ve looked through some of the interviews and it adds so much as you get to know the person through the questions and I find it really empowering. I second Seana’s response to you as well, I hope that this website and other movements will really bring an end or at least decrease this hyper sexualization of women’s bodies. I also wish to see these kinds of sites gain more recognition and be circulated more as they are so crucial to educating people and ending the stigma about sex and our bodies. We are all human, and to read those words on herself.com are so great as hearing that everyday women just like ourselves are projecting such body positive messages, as well as simply honest and personal experiences on various subjects, is refreshing. Thanks for sharing!

  9. In Response to Anna: Your blog hits a soft spot with me. I went to school in a small independent school. Every morning, we would stand together in a circle holding hands and recite this saying: We join together as a group of learners. We respect our differences, we recognize our feelings, and celebrate the work of ourselves and others. We never had the opportunity to judge those around us, so I never really understood the meaning of inequality until I went to the public high school. Before 9th grade, I never thought twice about how I looked, or how my femininity affected how I was perceived in the world. However, once I entered into the public school, right away I was hit with the idea that I had to look a certain way, and I was constantly concerned with what people thought of me. It was exhausting. So reading your blog post and looking into herself.com helped remind me how even when we feel like we are alone in the world, we are alone together.

    In response to Colleen: Reading yours definitely brought a smile to my face. It made me think of my time spent looking through old records of my family history, which I mentioned in my post, and also the nervous wonder I get whenever I’m in my grandmother’s basement, admiring her old collectables that came from her mother, who came from her mother before that. The most precious possession that I think I have seen from my family history is my great grandfather’s violin. I myself hold memories from my childhood with his violin, and it is my hope that I will one day be able to play it, seeing that it is in Ireland at the moment. There is always such a warm spark of excitement whenever you find an artifact, or even a newspaper article, relating somehow to your family’s history. There’s a special moment of connectedness that you feel, and I think you captured that wonderfully.

    In response to Tanvi: My home town has a significant Mexican immigrant population, lots of whom are undocumented. Most of the students, however, are American citizens, being that they were born here after their parents escaped the Mexican cartels and border patrols on their way to hopeful, relative safety. I’ve heard several stories over the years where one, or even both, parents were deported back to Mexico, leaving the children the option of either staying on their own, or with relatives, in the Sates or going back to Mexico where they have almost nothing. However, I had never really understood how real it was until one of my best friends told me how they were afraid every day that they would be caught at work in the packing shed, or that one of them would get injured and they wouldn’t be able to go to the hospital for fear of being deported. So much is kept quiet for fear of the danger that lies within all of their lives, and it is heartbreaking to see families torn apart just for trying to provide better lives for their families.

  10. Kaz: I found Kaz’s point regarding the authoritative structure of archives very interesting. His post reminded me that it is important to examine how museums and archives are assembled and edited because it could hint at the underlying oppression in a society. Even in archives like PARI, the archivists/interviewers/photographers determine which photographs are used and what parts of the interviews are used or emphasized. This has the possibility to seriously alter the representation of a group being archived. Moreover, allowing the people who are representing in the archives to design the exhibits creates a way for them to fill an unnatural silence without being as influenced by hegemonic forces in their society.

    Zoey: I thought Zoey’s post regarding the ethics of archives presented a very interesting problem to our society: is it right, moral or ethical to release people’s private information? In her post, Zoey argued that people’s privacy rights ought to be protected first and foremost. However, I think that in many cases, records ought to be provided to the public, at least anonymously. If archival records are provided to the public, they can function as a record of collective memory and they can provide ways to evade the issues at hand. At the same time, if the archives are formulated from a hegemonic perspective, this poses issues about respect, authenticity and representation.

    Tanvi: I thought Tanvi’s post about ‘The Race Card’ was interesting and reflective. Considering the ethical concerns Zoey brought up in her post about archives, I thought that ‘The Race Card’ allowed people to choose to archive important aspects of their lives. Similar to Kaz’s post about the exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology, which detailed the importance of oppressed peoples creating their own archives, ‘The Race Card’ allows people to create their own archives and document what they think is important in their lives to contribute to the conversation about race. This helps contribute to filling silences in an appropriate and ethical manner.

  11. In response to Mishal:
    Your blog post made some excellent points about the conventions that Diamond Grill does and does not observe as a life narrative. Your discussion about the representation of family in particular made me think about how difficult it is to accurately portray another person, and the risk associated with that (especially when it’s someone close to you). Perhaps the poetic structure of the book, though it can make it difficult to comprehend at times, contributes to the soft light Wah seems to cast on his family. He does not ignore his family’s flaws; he speaks about gambling addiction and racism, yet he doesn’t criticise either. Wah manages to state what is, in poetry and prose, without making the reader (or at least me) judge his family for their flaws because Wah doesn’t either.

    In response to Emily:
    The last part of your blog post, about food providing comfort, really struck a chord with me. I immigrated to Canada when I was very young with my parents and paternal grandparents, whom I live with. My grandma, who spent most of her life in India, knows how to cook just about anything and everything, and I will never find any Indian food I love as much as hers. The kitchen, she says, is her space. She refuses to let anyone else prepare lunch or dinner, insisting that this is what she likes to do. For her, food is a way of connecting to her home back in India. It is one of the remaining connections she has to her parents and siblings, who taught her to cook, and one that she hopes to pass on to me one day. She proves that food is more than just sustenance, but as you said a bridge connecting two worlds and a small comfort from her past.

    In response to Zoey:
    Your blog raises a really interesting point about how we can fill silences without further oppressing people who have been left out of archives to begin with. It raises an important and very real moral dilemma: is it better to infringe upon people’s privacy and share stories and information they perhaps don’t want heard in order to create better records for the future? Or should the stories of, for example, residential school survivors be kept private forever and the public allowed to remain uneducated about oppression that has already occurred? What do we do when silences are first forced, and later chosen? I don’t know if there’s really a solution, but I think this sort of a dialogue needs to happen.

  12. Will,

    I think your ideas regarding the forgetting of racism, and its recent resurgence are very interesting. In middle school, during the election of Barack Obama, my history teacher said, “Racism won’t be over until we have the ability to elect someone of a different race into office, and not comment on it.” I remember this hitting me hard, as it totally put the fact that there are still race relation issues into my mind. Even though we as a younger generation seem so open minded and accepting to the racial differences among us, I think your idea that the time lag of racial acceptance has still not yet been reached is completely correct, and still an issue. The idea my history teacher put forward is interesting in the way that I do agree, we as a society may not have moved past racism until we no longer feel the need to point out the fact that we are electing an individual that is not white, but my question is at this point, may other issues arise? Will we be at the point where we are so culturally homogenous, that elements of individual cultures will begin disappear? It seems that rather than adopting a rather Eurocentric approach, like many do today, we just need to learn to accept the differences existing between our cultures, and not view each other as lower than one another. This would allow us to see everyone as equal, while also respecting and accommodating cultural differences.

    Tanvi,

    I think your question regarding the ways in which the use of the internet will be able to open doors for marginalized voices was very thought provoking. It seems that recently, with the increase in flows of cultural and capital goods from place to place, we are seeing an extreme increase in the witnessing and hearing of narratives and information from individuals who, traditionally, through the past, have not had the ability to speak out and had their voices heard. Last semester we looked at those images from the Syrian refugees, who, through the past probably would not have been able to access the eyes of so many individuals on a global scale, and receive the responses they did. Other examples exist, such as PARI, and The Race Card Project, like you discussed. I wonder, looking into the future, how many more voices we will begin to hear, as access to the internet reaches more rural areas globally. It seems as though, like we have discussed in geography, the concept of distance is receding slightly. In a world where we can connect to someone on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds, our idea of space has shrunk, as we are given the ability to connect with, witness, and experience the same things as those in vastly different economic, social, and cultural settings.

    Rachel,

    I thought your analysis of the RBSC as a whole was very interesting. It seems as though there are definitely silences when you observe the archive as a complete body itself. Is it really demonstrative of an entire British Columbian history? Or does it leave out certain groups, like as you said, the “average” person. It would be interesting to compare the archive to one such as the City of Vancouver Archive, and in that way see if any silences arise. Do other archives possess information and knowledge that could aid in the revealing of silences within another? I think this would be an interesting experiment to carry out. In an ideal world, it seems like the archive would just contain all the information about everybody in a places history. But does socio-economic status, and its relation to the preservation of documents play a key role? I think more research would have to be done, but it does seems that some silences could be released through these methods.

  13. Response to Jewel: I like how you compared the different circumstances in terms of the representation of family members for a family memoir. It brought me to think about the process that goes into creating these texts and the various issues such as the permission to publish information. For My Struggle Karl Ove Knausgaard failed to get the permission of family member when publishing the novel. Family is a very interesting topic for permission as an author who is part of the family. Knausgaard’s shared memories and experiences with these family members may have implied permission from Knausgaard’s point of view, although explicit permission was not given by the family members. Opposite of that, Justin Halpern asked for explicit permission to share content generated by his father. I think that when it comes to the publication of private occurrences, explicit permission should always be given just as Halpern did.

    Response to Tanvi: You brought up a very interesting controversial topic of race. With The Race Card Project encouraging the submission of six word sentences from the public, it is clear how engaged people can become towards controversial topics over the internet. The topic of race is also very relatable to me as a Japanese American, as I sometimes come across a personal mini cultural identity crisis. While the topic of race has been a “hot topic” for some time, I think that the public contribution through such projects/websites really helps with understanding different people’s opinions and ideas about race. Like you said, small contributions like this won’t enable access to the race conversation to everyone, but it’s definitely a start.

    Response to Melissa: I agree that social media in today’s modern society is a vital tool for documentation of individuals’ lives. The fact that Joe Miller’s own Instagram photos helped him recover his memories from a stroke amazes me: it shows us how we are constantly producing content and are archiving them personally without realization. As mentioned in your post, the web not only serves personal needs but a public one as well. Through the application of an archival system for digital media artifacts (such as photos, videos, and status updates), different cultures and societies of the future can understand our social media immersed generation much better. With technological advances in servers and cloud storage, the storage and archiving of digital media will become much easier in the next 5-10 years. I’m very optimistic about the future of archives and the greatness it will hold.

  14. Rachel: I also found it difficult to identify silences when looking at archives in the RBSC but as we talked about in ASTU a few classes ago, understanding the context of the archive (dates and geography) is critical to discovering voices that might be missing. I was also thinking about the question you posed about whose information has been saved. As I mentioned in my blog, I was able to find my great-great uncle’s fonds in Calgary, AB. However, if he hadn’t been a white male and a politician the likelihood that the museum would have saved his letters, photographs and speeches is next to nonexistent. That makes me even more conscious of those whose families weren’t part of the dominant culture and whose voices, stories and memories have been obliterated and silenced by selective archivists.

    Shaan: I believe we have much to learn about the decisions our government has made in regard to the First Nations people. In order to begin to understand what the First Nations people are facing in terms of reigniting their extinguished culture we need to learn more about what was lost. One way we can do that is by trying to help fill the unnatural silences in Canadian archives. In her response to your blog post, Chipo mentioned a mural in Deep Cove that struck her and without having to click on the link she provided I knew immediately what mural she noticed. I used to pass that mural as I carpooled with friends to kayaking lessons in Deep Cove, and we would walk past if we went for ice-cream at the end of a week of classes, or if we brought visitors to Deep Cove to see the scenery. Every time I walked or drove by I felt as though someone was watching me and it reminded me as I passed that this land isn’t ours and there are people who have lived in this area longer than we have known it existed.

    Melissa: I found the story of Joe Miller fascinating, it is the perfect example of the positive effects of archiving information on social media. The fact that the pictures he had posted served as memory aids and enabled him to regain memories is truly amazing. However, I am old fashioned enough that I value hard copies of photos, certificates, and other archives over digital archives. Although obstacles as explained by Dr. Luciana Duranti exist and can be overcome, there remains a risk to putting information of such personal and collective value online. Nevertheless, there is no denying that we are entering an era of new and exciting technology and I have no doubt that future generations will analyze archives of our lives with the help of technology that we wouldn’t be able to dream of today. This is an exciting concept and I look forward to witnessing that progression.

  15. To Mishal: I find your point about whether a writer should sugar coat a story or write it as a naked truth interesting because I wonder if there actually can be a naked truth. After all, everyone does see everything, even the most mundane event differently from everyone else. Maybe we don’t know the entire circumstances around the event (because no one really can) or because we’re biased from previous encounters. Therefore, even when trying to the “naked truth,” it can’t be the full naked truth, some parts of the story have to be “clothed.” That, I believe, is therefore also the case for Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill. Maybe he told the story of his grandfather’s gambling in a way so that it doesn’t seem as bad, or even seems worse, while adding the humorous sides so we don’t dislike him as much because he doesn’t want us to hate him.

    To Blakely: I really liked your connections between John Couser’s “Rhetoric and Self-Representation in Disability Memoir,” to, not just Diamond Grill, but, many of the other texts we’ve covered. It makes me wonder if, secretly, everyone needs emancipation in some way, it’s just that they and we don’t know it yet (yes, even the stereotypical, white, daughter of tech start-up girl). It kind of reminds me of the expression “the grass is greener on the other side,” because we can’t know what any other person experiences, although we can have similar experiences in some ways. Perhaps the things that do seem “better” is just a stereotype as well, and it’s not so great at all. Maybe they need to be “emancipated” from it as well.

    To Anna: I was intrigued by your point in how society makes it so that women are objectified in ads and other things, but still are labeled as deviant when they follow the examples shown to them. I also wonder why some forms of showing naked bodies seem to be made into more sexual images than others. I wonder if that is a social construct so that it is made to become a stereotypical image of sex, and if it weren’t objectified like that, it would just be another pose. I wonder if the website, herself.com, will help “emancipate” women from the stereotypes of being sluts, like how Blakely pointed out Diamond Grill did for Fred Wah, or will the objectification be too strong. After all, this movement is a lot less seen and known than the sexualized ads that we can see everywhere we go.

  16. In response to Jewel: I found your blog post quite interesting because it made me think what would I do if I were to write a memoir about my family? It makes you wonder that to what extent can you portray the characters as they are in real life. This is where I think one has to make the hard decision of either omitting controversial details in an attempt to maintain peace in their relationships or risk it all by delivering nothing but the naked truth. And as you mentioned in your blog, sometimes the response of your family members might be quite positive and supportive which might improve your relations and make you feel more at peace.

    In response to Anna: I liked how you used the website herself.com to draw inks between archival silences. As carter writes silences in archive may be natural or unnatural but its up to the reader to identify and try to fill these silences. I saw the website and I felt an essence of strong women who have gone through tough times but are still brave enough to tell their stories. This form of representation of the female body, the female mind and the struggles of women around the world, seems to project a more realistic and relatable image of women, rather than the commercialized pictures of female models on billboard posters.

    In response to Tanvi: After reading your blog post and going through the website for the race card project, I started thinking about my six-word definition of what race means to me. It is something that is universal and yet so diverse in the way different individuals perceive it. And as you mentioned that still a lot of people living in under privileged conditions don’t have access to internet which has become a fundamental tool for human progression and development. I believe these people; the poor and marginalized are the ones that are most affected by racial discrimination in our society. All the stories i went through on the website had a different impact on me and empowered me in different ways. The site celebrates diversity and allows you to take accept and take pride in our different cultures and ethnicities. At this pace of rapid communication in today’s world, it seems we are getting closer and closer to providing support and recognition for the marginalized. At the very least, we have achieved some progress in erasing racial discrimination as compared to where we stood a 100 years ago.

  17. In response to Jewel’s blog post:
    You raised a good point about the ethics of writing a family memoir. Consensus and mutual respect between the memoirist and the subject are crucial to publication. Considering the intimate nature of family, most people do not want their everyday lives and issues within their family to be exposed to the public. Life narratives may not always be serving a beneficial purpose when privacy is being infringed. Your blog post also make me think of this website about the unwillingness of residential school survivors to make their painful stories to the public. Again, we should respect the decision of the subject to remain silent no matter we are the archivist, the memoirist, or the reader.

    In response to Tanvi’s blog post:
    I like how you connect the Mass Observation Project, PARI, and the Race Card Project to explore the importance of the everyday lives of everyday people! Indeed these websites provide marginalized groups a platform to voice out their thoughts and be heard. Yet, the stories posted on the websites still have to go through the process of editing. Thern who gets to choose what stories to be told online? What effect it may have? For example in the Race Card Project, many of the stories are about Black people’s experiences of being discriminated by White. Will this stereotype white people by making all of them “racists” and not being respectful?

    In response to Nana’s blog post:
    It is really distressing when reading the poems on Angel Island writing by Chinese immigrants on Angel Island in the early 1900s. This piece of archive has an important evidentiary role to US’s history of racial discrimination. However, when studying these poems, we should consider the role of translation and how it may affect the authenticity of the writing. When I read the original Chinese version of the poem, I found that their writing were extremely sophisticated (absolutely not something I could write). This provides evidence that those who stayed on the Angel Island Immigration station were well-educated people, as opposed to the general perception that Chinese immigrants were low-skilled and unknowledgeable. Yet, when it is translated into English, wordings are often simplified for easy understanding. Thus, the meanings behind and the underlying stories of the poems may be missed out after translation.

  18. In response to Jodie’s blog:
    http://blogs.ubc.ca/astujodiefongrawr/2016/01/24/writing-a-travel-narrative/

    I find the idea of a travel narrative enticing because it could be thought of as a non-fiction adventure text. Bowes’ tip to “avoid writing about personal mishaps” and to “focus on what the readers might experience themselves” that you outlined resonated with my own experience in reading fictional stories. My favourite stories as a child were those in which the main character was an ordinary person that was subjected to extraordinary situations. Readers like me want to be able to imagine themselves in the situation. Superhero comic book readers could be familiar with this in that the majority of superheroes gain their powers through unlikely (but perhaps possible) circumstances such as radiation exposure or scientific experiments. Although these are extreme examples they can demonstrate the reader’s need to connect with the writer. Developing a connection could be more difficult if the superhero was born with the powers, such as in the case of X-Men, or exceptionally fortunate, such as Batman. With the mention of Whitlock’s “Protection” and the need to ‘perform’, I suggest that a travel narrative needs to be somewhere in the middle between an average mundane life and something more extraordinary. A specific event, trait, or voice, for instance, might be needed to attract some audiences.

    Whitlock, Gillian. “Protection.” We Shall Bear Witness: Life Narratives and Human Rights.
    http://blog.visual.ly/20-super-infographics-about-superheroes/
    http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2011/sep/23/travel-writing-tips-expert-advice

    In response to Tanvi’s blog:
    http://blogs.ubc.ca/tanvibhatia/

    “Playing the race card” is an intriguing way to phrase the use of race as a tool. It suggests that the utilization of the race card is a game, maybe strategic and calculated, and I agree with Gilbert and Rossing against the use of the race card, especially in that frame of mind. I appreciate the The Race Card Project because open conversation on the topic of race and racism could be important for eliminating discrimination by race. I remember an interview with Morgan Freeman that actually held the opposite view; he believed that “If you talk about it, it exists. It’s not like it exists and we refuse to talk about it, Making it a bigger issue than it needs to be is the problem here.” He also finds the concept of Black History Month ridiculous, stating that “black history is American history.” The conversation was very interesting and contrasts with the approaches to race that the Race Card Project use.
    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/flashback-morgan-freeman-ending-racism-stop-talking-about-it

    In response to Blakey’s blog:
    http://blogs.ubc.ca/blakelybrowneblog/

    You mentioned that the format of the Diamond Grill with its lack of ‘linearness’ and poetic components demonstrate Wah’s confusion in terms of his ‘hybridity’ and racial identity. With the knowledge that Wah is not only mixed racially, but also in terms of career paths, I propose that the text also demonstrates his hybridity between a poet and a scholar. The contrast within Diamond Grill between poetic and scholarly techniques could be representative of a combination of his creative and empirical tendencies. This “biotext”, as Wah called it, gives him artistic license in the telling of his familial history. A review by Quill and Quire states that “style of these pieces varies greatly, from unpunctuated prose poems, recipes, and excerpts from research materials, to beautifully detailed descriptions of the restaurant itself, funny and warm character sketches, and philosophical musings upon anthropology and identity”. As a whole made up of various types of writing, I argue that Diamond Grill shows the internal difference of Wah between his desire to be scholarly and artistic.
    http://www.quillandquire.com/review/diamond-grill/

  19. Shaan

    I connected quite strongly to your blog, I share a lot of the feelings that you have towards first nations people. I think that those lands are definitely archives and that we should be preserving them instead of building upon them. That is something that has gone on for a while now, the first nation people are a rich part of Canadian history and Canadian Government has to work to persevere that instead of destroying that. Also your link between Astu and Sociology is great, I found my self making that connection to our reflection paper as a read your blog.

    Zoey

    I to share you interest in exploring UBC Rare Books, there is tremendous knowledge with in the collection there waiting to be found. I also found it quite interesting that we have the opportunity to create first scholarly work on many of the pieces down there. As well the connection we make between articles and document may by some of the first for that archive. Also I share concern are ethic and I think that with traumatic events there is a very thin line. Your connection between Germany and the residential school I found very interesting and I hope we follow in there foots steps so that knowledge can be shared.

    Emma

    I share your appreciation for old documents and photos. As a child my favourite thing to do when I went to my grandparent’s house was look through old boxes, photo albums and in the crawl space for interesting pieces of my family history. One time I found and old box of my grandfather’s old war stuff from when he was a fighter pilot during World War II. I have never typed my family name into a website like Ancestry.com but I have been tempted many times to see what thing it can uncover about my family history that I don’t know.

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