Panel 5, Archiving, Data Management, Community Histories

Samip Mallick

Executive Director, South Asian American Digital Archive/SAADA


“Community Archives in the Digital Era: Building the South Asian American Digital Archive”

For the last nine years, SAADA (the South Asian American Digital Archive) has been collecting and sharing stories and archival materials related to the diverse history of South Asians in the United States. The archive, which now makes accessible more than 3,000 unique items, includes historical photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence, flyers, community publications, and other ephemera, as well as video, oral history interviews, and born digital materials. Through community storytelling initiatives such as the First Days Project and Road Trips Project, SAADA creates digital spaces for sharing the lived experiences of South Asian Americans. And through Tides, SAADA’s online magazine, public events and presentations, and other outreach efforts, the organization seeks to raise awareness about South Asian American history both within the community and amongst the general public. In addition to sharing more about SAADA’s digital post-custodial model, this presentation will address three questions: 1. How a post-custodial community-based approach challenges traditional conceptualizations of the role of the archive; 2. The potential benefits and limitations related to a digital-only approach to building a community archives; 3. Exploring how community archives like SAADA can understand and measure their affective impact on the communities they serve.

Vivek Bald
Associate Professor of Writing and Digital Media, MIT

Vivek Bald

Documenting the Histories of the Undocumented: South Asian Muslim Lives Beyond U.S. and British Archives”

How do we find, piece together, narrate, and open up space for the stories of South Asian Muslim migrants, immigrants, and sojourners who came to the United States at the height of the Asian Exclusion Era – people whose first imperative was to remain hidden and unnoticed, who quietly integrated into other U.S. communities of color? This question is at the center of the trans-media Bengali Harlem/Lost Histories project, which consists of a work of written history (Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America), a documentary film (In Search of Bengali Harlem), and a web-based community archive (“The Lost Histories Project”). This presentation will discuss the ways that different methods and media are being employed to excavate the stories of Bengali Muslim men who jumped ship and built clandestine labor networks in the U.S. between the 1910s and 1950s, to document the cross-racial communities that emerged from their settlement in neighborhoods such as Harlem, and to record the memories of their children and descendants. I argue that in order to raise up “peoples histories” of peoples who were simultaneously rendered stateless by British colonialism and criminalized by U.S. immigration laws, we must not only critically engage official archives, but create our own. In so doing, we transform the nature of archives and challenge what and who “counts” as historical.

Davina Bhandar, Co-Director Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities and Adjunct Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies

Simon Fraser University


“Tripping on Pavements: Possessive / Possessed Inclusion and Settler Migrations”

There is a particular form of haunting that takes place when writing, investigating and examining the internal logics of family history. This haunting is both a monstrous exhumation of past wrongs and rights that have been somewhat buried from view and others are the spritely ghosts that can no longer be repressed. To often the writing in of minority histories comes at a cost of understanding in full detail the apparatus that has hidden, organized or produced this knowledge from coming to light. The language surrounding a community’s self discovery or how to engage with a past that can easily be re-invented, appropriated or celebrated. What are the methods, practices and forms of constitutive knowledges  that are taking place in the discovery, collection, creation of South Asian diaspora histories in the context of British Columbia? How are communities being recreated in this process? I seek to examine the relationship between projects of South Asian data collection in British Columbia and how what I call a logic of possessive inclusion functions.

Bikrum Singh Gill

Research Fellow, International Politics, University of Aberystwyth

“The (Im)possibility of a Politics of Belonging: Historical Traces of Sikh Women Workers
in the Movement between Punjab and BC”

The province of British Columbia has been fundamentally shaped by racialized and gendered technologies of violence through which particular forms of labour have been rendered invisible.  There remains insufficient awareness, however, of both the impact that such foundational violence has had upon those consigned to such invisibility, and how the world-making response of such “marginalized” subjects has been essential to creating the liveability of British Columbia.  This presentation aims to foreground such “historical traces” of the marginalized by engaging the ongoing history of Sikh women working in hotels and factories in Victoria, and will particularly try to locate both how they have been impacted by, and have in turn impacted, the “historical geography” of movement and place between Punjab and BC.  It thus constitutes an accounting of the intersection of race, gender, and class in the formation of both subjects and place, as well as thinking about how such categories are subverted.