Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Committee Director

Daniel P. Richards

Committee Member

Louise Wetherbee Phelps

Committee Member

Julia Romberger

Committee Member

Nathan R. Johnson

Abstract

Around Her Table is a born-digital dissertation dedicated to collecting, preserving, and validating the Azorean-American woman’s immigrant experience and cultural identity through the transformative power of participatory archives. The site address is www.aroundhertable.org. The digital exhibit features the oral histories and artifacts related to the domestic sphere of six Azorean-American families, with particular emphasis on artifacts related to the kitchen, hand-worked textiles, and religious practices. Driving the urgency for the creation of new archival records for this community is that fact that despite the nearly one million North Americans who trace their ancestry to the Azores, traditional institutional and civic archives have largely overlooked Azoreans’ presence and contributions. These obscurations are even more profound for Azorean-American women whose lives are primarily connected to the private sphere of the home. This dissertation begins to redress these archival erasures while arguing for the need to devote greater resources to the documentation of the Azorean-American experience, contributing to equitable representation in the archival record upon which our histories are written.

In addition to generating and exhibiting these digital artifacts, this dissertation is also an analytic autoethnographic study of the archival production processes. This method is grounded in reflexive narratives that document the researcher’s situated decision-making and affective experiences that are then analyzed, in relation to current scholarship, in order to identify key considerations for developing cultural participatory archives. These narratives explore the archive’s conceptualization, participation, funding, institutional influences, data collection procedures, and interface design. While inviting methodological critique, narratives inclusion also recognizes the influential forces that shape the archive, and thus frame users’ experiences and meaning-making activities, providing transparency and enabling future researchers’ need to account for implicit biases and critically consider the implications of the archival apparatus. This dissertation draws on feminist rhetorical and historiographic practices, operating with critical reflexivity and an ethics of care framework that prioritizes cultural stakeholders while honoring affective connections to scholarship. It is also positioned within archival studies’ post-custodial turn that takes responsibility for the archive as a political space and calls for activist-archivists to generate new archival records in an effort to mediate social injustices through archival evidence and representation.

DOI

10.25777/mqzn-3b83

ORCID

0000-0002-7710-5260

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