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Short Papers: Cultural and Historical Studies

July 15 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm UTC+0


Chair: Jennifer Douglas

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Situating Archives in South Asia Studies


Henria Aton (Information, University of Toronto)


This presentation draws from the first chapter of my dissertation, entitled “Tamil in the Multiverse: Power, Memory, and Loss in Contemporary Sri Lankan Archives”. Drawing on Michelle Caswell’s article criticizing the neglect of archival studies scholarship by scholars of the humanities interested in the ever-abstract “The Archive,” this presentation offers a double critique. First, scholars of South Asia who have written about archives without citing and/or not acknowledging the abundance of relevant archival studies scholarship are damaging their own ability to think differently and beyond disciplinary boundaries about colonialism, nationalism, and knowledge production. Second, archival studies scholarship (with some notable exceptions) has also failed to engage with South Asia, a vast place rich in archives and archival histories that transcend borders and holds enormous theoretical and practical value. This presentation engages with the double critique by tracking the entwined histories of archival science and South Asia studies (area studies). I will present my preliminary analysis of The Indian Archives, a journal published by the National Archives of India after independence. I argue that The Indian Archives offers a new perspective about archival science, one that troubles binary narratives about the colonizer vs. the colonizers and the global north vs. the global north.


Deserters, Stowaways, and Malafide Seamen: The Records Continuum of the 1930 Merchant Seamen Census


Johnathan Thayer, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, Queens College, City University of New York


Since its inception in 1790, the enumeration of people via the mechanism of the U.S. census has influenced federal and local government resource allocation. This paper proposes to examine the extraordinary 1930 U.S. Merchant Seamen Census, which attempted to classify every merchant sailor in every major U.S. port within the context of increasingly restrictive immigration legislation positioned against a perceived “alien seamen” crisis that brought intense scrutiny to U.S. ports, merchant and passenger ships, and foreign sailors.

Merchant seamen, because of their persistent transience, “bluewater masculinity,”
and extreme multiculturalism, have always been perceived as inherently alien, and therefore have constantly posed challenges to the boundaries of U.S. citizenship. During the years between the Immigration Act of 1917, the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, and the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, merchant ships with crews legally entitled to shore leave served as platforms for acts of impersonation of merchant seamen, stowaways, and migrant smuggling rings that collectively presented powerful nodes of mobility for potential illegal immigration into the U.S. This paper will argue that the 1930 Merchant Seamen was a direct response to these venues of subversion, and that the outbreak of dragnet raids and deportation of non-citizen merchant seamen in sailortown districts in major port cities during 1931 were legitimized, in part, by government data collection.

This paper proposes to examine the records continuum of the 1930 Merchant Seamen census, reactivating its contexts of creation, use, disposition, and afterlives with the intent of historizing a singular instance of government surveillance over a severely marginalized population of transient maritime laborers.

Will this session be recorded for the AERI2021 Youtube channel? Yes


The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa vs. The National Museum of the American Indian: The Production of Indigenous Public History and Memory in New Zealand vs. the United States


Jeff Hirschy (University of Southern Mississippi)


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New Zealand and the United States of America are both settler societies founded in territories already controlled by Indigenous peoples. In New Zealand, it was the Maori people and in the United States it was the numerous Native American tribes living in North America. Both peoples were pushed aside by the arriving white settlers. But, in New Zealand, the Maori people were able to semi-successfully carve out a distinct cultural space that just managed to preserved their society and culture within a wider multi-cultural New Zealand. This is unlike the Native Americans in the United States who were banished to the outskirts of wider American society and placed on reservations to basically rot physically, culturally, and spiritually and who still remain on the outskirts of American culture and society  in the 21st century.

The success of Maoris in integrating themselves into wider New Zealand society also extends to museums and archives in ways that Native American culture hasn’t managed to achieve in the archives and museums of the United States. Because of this success, information institutions like the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum have establish better techniques and principles to preserve, manage, and remember Maori culture within their walls compared to what museums in the United States like the National Museum of the American Indian have done for Indigenous culture there in the United States.

The museums and archives in the United States that focus on Native matters, like the National Museum of the American Indian, can learn from the museums in New Zealand that celebrate Maori culture to establish better techniques and principles to more successfully celebrate, preserve and remember Native American culture. Doing this would create a stronger public history and memory for Native Americans across the United States.

Will this session be recorded for the AERI2021 Youtube channel? Yes


July 15
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm UTC+0
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