borona

This week, the readings for class focused on issues related to the role of universities, archives and interdisciplinary studies as critical scholarship. The idea that public scholarship is outside of the realm of critical scholarship has never occurred to me. As I read Guzman’s article, I thought about how public history is inherently a collaborative process. Guzman’s participation in the South El Monte Arts Posse, a collective of artists, writers, and urban planners reflects collaboration, memory, space, and community based scholarship.

Guzman’s reflection of space is especially interesting to me. The El Monte Arts Posse reminded me of the work of British scholar, Peter Burke as he reflects on collective memory through different forms of media. “Historians are concerned or should be concerned with memory as a historical phenomenon, with what might be called the social history of remembering.” He acknowledges that memories are affected by social organization and different media forms are shaped by different groups of people. Five different media forms are of importance to Burke: 1.) Oral traditions, 2.) traditional province of the historian, memoirs, and other written records, 3.) images, pictorial, or photographic, 4.) action transmit memories as they transmit skills from master to apprentice, 5.) space.

As a student in the Native American Studies Ph.D. program, a very interdisciplinary and community based department, I think a lot about space, memory, and how archival institutions tell community stories. Who tells these stories and for what purpose? What is the role of a community based scholar in “truth-telling”? And how do we use archives, inherently flawed because of subjectivity of archivists who define collections, help tell a community story? In Native American communities’ memory, collaboration and space is especially important. Many indigenous community scholars use methods of memory, construction of space, art, and oral history outside of the realm of the archive to create collaborative public history projects much like the South El Monte Arts Posse. For generations, the archive has been the hub in conducting critical scholarship across the humanities. Ferguson’s assertion that the archiving placed former colonies into a “kind of house arrest,” where “freedom signified genres of subjugation and domiciliation” questions the origins and objectivity of the traditional archive. The use of traditionally western methods to privilege the history of colonized communities is known as decolonization. Increasingly, it is important for communities to define their own scholarship through community based work to decolonize the academy.