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Navigating Archival Silence koh mla 2013


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These are the slides to my 10 minute talk, "Navigating Archival Silence" for the panel "Representing Race: Silence in the Digital Humanities" at the 2013 annual meeting of the Modern Language Association.

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Navigating Archival Silence koh mla 2013

  1. 1. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekohNavigating Archival silence:creating a nineteenth century postcolonial archive Adeline Koh Duke University and Richard Stockton College
  2. 2. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh The Archive & Power• Archives as forms by which knowledge is made visible/ knowable• Foucault: Archaeology of Knowledge • rules: limit possibility of knowledge• Derrida: Archive Fever • “achrontic power”
  3. 3. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh Digitizing “Chinese Englishmen”• Demo of “Digitizing Chinese Englishmen”• Currently in alpha form at http:// chineseenglishmen.adeli• Attempt to create a “postcolonial” nineteenth-century digital archive
  4. 4. Archival Silence in the 19th century archive• 19th century studies--undergone digital revolution in creating digital archives (, Swinburne Project etc.)• But little that explores the colonial history of the 19th century• “Digitizing Chinese Englishmen” attempts to deal with this archival silence
  5. 5. #mla13 #s239Who are the @adelinekoh‘ChineseEnglishmen’?✤ Anglophone Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore and Malaysia✤ Torn between two Empires: Qing Chinese and British✤ Privileged class of non- Europeans✤ Bourgeois intermediaries 5
  6. 6. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekohThe Straits ChineseMagazine✤ Modeled after Blackwoods and Macmillans✤ Upper-class periodical to give voice to Chinese diaspora of Malaya✤ Edited by Song Ong Siang and Lim Boon Keng 6
  7. 7. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh Designing a Decentralized, “Postcolonial” Archive- “Decentralized” archive--> modesfor democratic access andexchange-”Postcolonial” refers to EdwardSaid & postcolonial studiescollective of the 1980s, more of amode of criticism than time period
  8. 8. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh A “Postcolonial” 19th-century Archive?• A ‘postcolonial archive’ is one which examines and questions the impact and creation of imperialist ideology within the structure of the archive itself• Elizabeth Povinelli--investigate the compositional logics of the archive• Allen Isaacman, Premesh Lalu, Thomas Nygren: an archive which interrogates traces of colonialism & apartheid in knowledge production
  9. 9. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekohThe Structure of Digitizing ‘Chinese Englishmen’ • Subject matter--> allows for more comparative structures of similar hybrid dynamics across 19th century European empires • Spinoffs: “African Englishmen,” “Indian Englishmen,” “Caribbean Englishmen” etc...
  10. 10. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekohThe Structure of Digitizing ‘Chinese Englishmen’ • “Hypertext” linkages, use of tags, provide different types of reading • May “open up” text to different interpretations
  11. 11. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh The Structure of Digitizing ‘Chinese Englishmen’• Comments field-- “Opening up” of archive
  12. 12. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh CMS Shift• Now hosted in WordPress• Shift to Scalar:• metadata will be tagged in RDF format, allowing others to interact easily with the archive• Scalar: allows comments to play a more central role in determining the structure of the archive
  13. 13. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh Social Media & “Chinese Englishmen”• Twitter account: @CEnglishmen• Twitter hashtag: #CEnglishmen• Future: Tumblr blog?
  14. 14. #mla13 #s239 @adelinekoh To Summarize• “Digitizing Chinese Englishmen”--an attempt to think through creating a postcolonial archive• Through attempts to be self-critical of knowledge formation