archiving, movements, chaos theory

20 09 2010

My research is to study the community produced digital records of women who are part of demilitarization movements that span the Asia-Pacific, U.S. and Caribbean.  The purpose of research is not to report on women’s movements way of thinking. The digital realm is subject to surveillance. To articulate this worldview could subject it to appropriation by actors who may be threatened by internet communication and agency of people seeking a more democratic and sustainable world. There are people who want to know the “other,” not to change the world for the better, but to understand how to improve their tactics of free-market ideology, militaristic development, and other forms of institutionalized violence and cultures.

So, what is the purpose of my research?  It is to discuss the responsibility of listening to what women’s movements are saying, and how does the listener transform the self to respond.  I am a researcher located in both the university and the community.  I have been brought up by people on the front lines of social movements seeking demilitarization, sovereignty and self-determination.  But, I have also had the privilege to enter higher education, in contradictory spaces that can both advance the agendas that community movements resist, or advance the agendas that community movements advocate.  The act of speaking is contingent on context, and interpretation of what is heard is not uniform across speaker and listeners.  What is ingested by users and those out to collect information is interpreted and framed according to culture, history, power, identity, memory, issues of context that are self-reflexively defined by the user/information collector.  It is important to situate this user/information collector in society, as the development of that society situates his/her context and way of seeing reality.

The way of seeing reality, or worldview, is foundational to what that individual decides what is knowable, what can be represented, how that can be arranged, and how it can be interpreted and communicated to others outside of the self.  This is the art and science of Archiving.  My focus is understanding the self, society, development, worldviews, from social justice perspectives. Thus, I will need to begin where I am, an Ilocana in diaspora. What is my worldview, and how has it been constructed through relations with people and cultures from the Philippines, Hawaii, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, to other places I have been? It is not to be sollipsistic, but to empower future archivists of color to name the different parts of theirselves, who they are, and how their very being has been constructed through relations with multiple peoples, cultures and places.  The self becomes disaggregated, and one sees the need for cross-cultural solidarity, because the intersection of complexity is the becoming of the self.

When I speak of communication outside of the self, I speak of processes of community building. How does one name the threads that connect one with another, one with the collectives of people that relations have been built?  How does one transmit information of this connection in ways that are meaningful and relevant?  Community building is the process of creating shared meaning across groups.  As an archivist working in an information capacity for women’s movements, the shared meaning of our relations need to be constantly created and recreated as their views have largely been suppressed, and constantly change as issues on the ground shift and are fluid.  This context creates a radical departure for traditional archiving that is based on fixing, collecting and hoarding records into a singular space for future access and preservation.  What if the archivist is not to take information, but to illuminate the information that always exists around us, in everyday spaces, in the communities where the information is being dreamed and uttered?

I am inspired by Foucault’s belief that resistance exists whereever oppression exists.  In any institution, class, ethnic background, gender, age, country, ability, sexual orientation, etc, there are people working for social justice, as well as people who are afraid of justice because its threatens the power they have over the status quo.  We cannot change those who are not ready to change, but we can work with those who believe that change is possible.  It is the illumination of these dreamers and actor’s possibilities that is the work of Archivists focused on social justice.  The work is to illuminate their knowledge, and how that knowledge is represented, and to construct ways for that knowledge to connect with other knowledges.  This system will be complex, diverse, contradictory, and synergistic. It depends on how we practice our relationship to different ideas, value schemes, and how we can frame and reframe agendas so that reasons to be sustained thinking and action-based relationships can be prolonged.  But it is in this diversity of activity and actors that will mirror the entropic balance that Earth requires in order to maintain itself well being.  Why is it that indigenous languages have always been diverse across landscapes? Why is it that monocultural agriculture is not as ecologically balanced as diversified agriculture?  It is because in complexity and chaos, there is a system of collaboration that occurs where each plays a role in maintaining an aspect of balance, in the complex ecological-social-economic-spiritual-physical-geological-cosmological system that is this planetary existence.

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