Excited to present at the 2015 ASA Conference tomorrow! Our panel, “Disorganizing Knowledge,” is going to be awesome- check out my abstract below and hope to see you there!
Time Travel (De)collage
on Female Coolies, Archival Knowledge and Speculative Aesthetics
Researchers working in and with colonial archives, grappling with the historical legacies of transatlantic slavery, imperial conquest, and genocide, consistently confront the immiserating sense that the past cannot be changed. The concept of time travel is captivating precisely because it suggests the possibility of altering the course of history, of avoiding violence and injury, to access other futures. However, if the dilemma remains that futuristic machinery cannot help us rectify past wrongs, in this presentation I explore how the concept of time travel can still function as a mode of confronting loss and doing justice. Engaging the figure of the Asian coolie and the history of the coolie trade in particular, I posit time travel as an alternative practice for relating to archives and archival materials, one that is necessarily aesthetic and speculative.
Archives as both institutional and epistemological formations are intimately associated with legacies of colonialism, with processes of documenting, categorizing, and objectifying difference that establish certain groups as knowable “others.” As Foucault demonstrates, archives figure as sites for the management of bodies, in which living bodies are transformed into quantifiable statistics, concrete measures of value, loss and profit. I argue that attending to time travel as a process that emphasizes encounter and embodiment, the ways in which our bodies impact other bodies as we do archival research, disorganizes the hegemonic time-space of “the archive” and what constitutes as legitimate knowledge.