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A WGS Quarterly Publication


A wordle of text below.

What is community based archiving?


By Ellen-Rae Cachola

Paper From “Decolonizing the University” Conference, University of California Berkeley

February 27, 2010

My study has been looking at the records and record keeping systems of women in Women's Voices Women Speak (WVWS), Third Path Hawaii, Women for Genuine Security (WGS) and the International Women's Network Against Militarism (IWNAM). In these groups, there are women of color from the Asia-Pacific, U.S. and Puerto Rico/Vieques, coming from militarized countries. Many have experienced violence in families, communities, and state violence.  Others are survivors of prostitution, children of bases, from places of environmental contamination. Some women are in the front lines of movements, others are in academia and community movements. Issues of focus across these networks are demilitarizaiton, decolonization, environmental justice, human rights and reproductive justice, and how these issues are all connected to one another.

WVWS is a organization on Oahu focusing on demilitarization and Kanaka Moali sovereignty from women's perspectives.  Third Path is an alliance of women on Oahu, Molokai and Maui working on issues of reproductive justice.  WGS is the U.S. based partner of the IWNAM.  The IWNAM connects people in these and other organizations that span S. Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, U.S. and Puerto Rico/Vieques. 

Colonization and Decolonization

1) The history of archiving was part of imperialist project.  The connection between Anglo-European industrial development and archiving share a characteristic of being alloipoietic, or needing resources from outside in order to operate the self (Mingers, 2006). In industrial development, raw materials were constantly needed in order to fuel manufacturing centers and produce goods.  Colonization and displacement of other self-sustaining systems were necessary in order to integrate other lands as a source of raw materials for the development and modernization of imperial centers (Marx, 1967, Galeano, 1973).   Colonial archives maintained the records for how administrating governments treated indigenous peoples (Gilliland, et al, 2007).  The history of trauma and displacement of colonization is kept in records that are organized in systems that may be incongruent to how communities who experienced a particular colonial history access this information. The spatial and information organizational practices of different social systems in the society are important for understanding how particular cultural aesthetics, meaning and histories are able to transform space. 

2) Surveillance is real.  Information corporations such as google, facebook, youtube, run as businesses, and can change their free user policies if they so choose. They can be tools for government surveillance agencies to search, capture and identify the emergent, critical discourses of the population who use the Internet to post their daily activities. Depending on what is the intent of government surveillance, this can be alarming or not. Google has been using their economic power to supercede sovereignty of nations.  For example, Google based its server in Hong Kong, which is a former British colony, to resist China's internet firewall of any information that is critical to the government (Womack, 2010). Although China's human rights violations should be of concern, there is also the need to historicize why China has transformed itself to be this way.  We should also question the political and economic context of Google as a U.S. based information corporation that is able to ride the coat tails of free trade ideology. Through treaties, underpinned by the offense or defense of military security, developing and post-communist nations are restructured to follow capitalist market development that commodifies labor and people for capital to benefit existing economic and political systems.  These global, nationalist conversations still are yet to actualize the reflexivity on the effects of such development ideology upon peoples in their society, who are living the effects of past social stratification and inequities. 

3) Knowledge is not outside of the self, in the context of women's community discourses in WVWS, Third Path Hawaii, WGS, and the IWNAM.   To believe this, we have to deal with internalized oppression and trauma in order to believe that we have all we need, we have to be real with our issues, and be okay with being vulnerable.  This is connected to the concept of decolonial communication presented by Diego James Navarro at the Ethnic Studies Conference. Flight, fight, freeze or appease are the bioreaction to things we don't like. But can we listen and align to difference, in order to transform and subvert it (Navarro, 2010).  It requires personal empowerment to believe we have knowledge to understand what is different, and also add our own perspectives from the repetoire of knowledge that we have.

4) "Living archives" are the belief that human networks create, preserve and transmit spoken word, performance, live music, dance, and events.  Humans also create web communities that preserve and transmit music, text, images, videos and pictures.  Knowledge is applied to transform space.  Records don't have to be text or informational objects. Sometimes, records of empowerment are the spaces needed to talk, to process, to feel, to be heard.  The point is to build communication, breaking alienation, breaking silences, making space for intercultural, intergenerational dialogue, and finding points of intersection, in order to bring different skills and knowledge toward collective action.

In this context, I'm conceptualizing a design for information systems that are 

a) Endogamous—using existing systems like facebook, blogs as communication platforms, that these women are already using. Also, local and international gatherings as face-to-face, intercultural and intergenerational communication about issues and strategies are forms of communication.

b) Community led. People organize events and their records for community intent. Events bring in more people to continue the work, but the work is done in different ways. People take on different roles, from community work, to academia, to non-profits, to education, to media, for example. 

c) Transforming space. Third path Maui advocates for reproductive justice by working on developing a sustainable garden.  Third Path Oahu and DMZ Hawaii expose people to sites on Oahu impacted by militarism and tells histories about the land from Kanaka Maoli perspectives. Women for Genuine Security's "Hidden in Plain Sight" pilgrimage to uncover histories of militarism in the Bay Area. People use records of storytelling and land to make intercultural connections and to understand how militarism operates across many nations. 

d) Builds technological skills for women to document their own processes. Archiving is empowering people to see the knowledge in themselves and in their own actions. Technology does not have to mean computers, databases, Internet, or other technological machines.  It also means the naming and reclaiming of what we consider are "tools" to do the work that we do.  In empowerment work, the body is a tool.  In order to move past symptoms of external and internalized oppression, such as self-doubt, fear, shame, the body becomes a site of negotiation and rupturing of forced silence. The body begins to communicate verbally, emotionally, physically, artistically, mentally, spiritually, culturally... The body begins to express the histories, stories, narratives, memories of the spirit(s) that inhabit the body.  The skill is to recognize the purpose of these voices as living histories that seek to be told through the body. The body is skillfully used as an instrument for the release and communication of messages to address issues of communities in the present. 

e) Communication Technologies.  Archiving can be done through blog writing, website documentation of events and issues being worked on, and histories of organizations. WGS is working on a film, which will be imprinted on to DVD, disseminated through networks via community screenings.  Videos are produced by women in the networks and shared through youtube, vimeo, and other media channels and facebook. These communication technologies capture pieces of information that make up the mosaic of what is militarism from this network's perspective.  Each media serves as a stream of information that can inundate our inbox, minds and bodies.  Our basic knowledge repository, the body, must be seen as a place that takes in, holds, embeds, and releases information.  To understand what is necessary to hold on to, an understanding of the self, the histories of the self, the histories of the places and people that surround the self, is needed in order to filter through information through learning, unlearning, identifying relevance, prioritizing well being and alliance building. Thus, the information that is shared through communication technologies is to see it as flows of messages to construct different realms of global realities that can help us understand how militarism is developed, interconnected, sustained, resisted and subverted.  To be at a place where these information flows together is a chance to learn how to organize and reorganize one's thoughts about what militarism is, to map out your understandings using information flows to visualize the discursive realities they represent, and to create alternative paradigms that make connections across ideas, movements, people--new strategies that can be used to look at militarism from fresh perspectives.


Works Referenced

Galeano, Eduardo, 1973. Open Veins of Latin America.  New York: Monthly Reviewed Press.

Gilliland, Anne, Andrew Lau, Yang Lu, Sue McKemmish, Shilpa Rele, Kelvin White.   2007. Pluralizing the Archival Paradigm through Education: Critical Discussions around the Pacific Rim.  Prepublished paper in Archives and Manuscripts, 35:2, pp. 10-39.

Marx, Karl. 1967 Capital: Volume I. New York: International Publishers.

Mingers, John. 2006. Living Systems: Autopoiesis in Realising Systems Thinking. Springer U.S.

Womack, Brian. 2010. Google Sidesteps Censorship in China via Hong Kong (Update4). Business Week. Retrievable at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-22/google-s-chinese-web-page-redirects-to-hong-kong-version-of-site.html.


April 2010 Newsletter
Letter to Senator Barbara Boxer
Halt the Guam Build up plans, Rewrite the DEIS

Statement from Okinawa

Words of Reflection

Human Trafficking, Prostitution & Militarisms: Framing a discourse of memory, colonization, and decolonial possibilities

Black-Amerasian Body in Spaces in Between Series:  Introduction

What is community based archiving?









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