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Towards Narrative Change: Oral History in Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

Wednesday, May 1, 2024 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Roundtable Discussion


This roundtable will address the theme of “Public Dialogue, Relevance, & Change: Being in Service to Communities and the Nation” by asking presenters to share their experiences designing and implementing documentation, oral history, and archival projects; training the next generation to do oral history; and partnering with community-based organizations and libraries/archives to do this work. As the digital age has created various new mediums for recording, preserving, and disseminating oral histories, might service to communities and “the Nation” be imagined through the co-creation of new primary sources via documentation and oral history projects? In addition, how might oral history be used for Asian American and Pacific Islander community building and how should historians, librarians, and archivists position themselves in relationship to the communities they serve? The COVID-19 pandemic and racial reckoning across the United States reveal stark inequities for minoritized groups, particularly related to their access (or lack thereof) to the tools and space to narrate their own histories in their own words. Our roundtable is made up of historians, professors, oral historians, and archives stewards who regularly engage with community-based organizations and cultural heritage groups to document and preserve oral histories of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The projects they are involved with employ oral history as a central research methodology in developing community-based and community-focused methodologies to address underrepresented groups in the historical records. Dorothy Fujita-Rony (UC Irvine) will discuss the Indonesian American family memories that she has collected over the span of four decades, ranging from an extended oral history that she collected from her grandmother in 1985, to her present day work developing curriculum and for Indonesian American history. In addition, Fujita-Rony also will offer some reflections regarding her work with oral histories in community contexts over the years, including the Chinese American and Filipino American communities. Thuy Vo Dang (UCLA) will discuss her work with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center collecting oral histories of formerly incarcerated AAPIs from the greater Los Angeles area. Through her oral history course, she trained MLIS and Ph.D. students in the School of Education and Information Studies to interview formerly incarcerated folx for a public archive through the Mellon-funded project, Archiving the Age of Mass Incarceration. The participants, many of whom are Southeast Asian or Pacific Islander, provide counternarratives to the dehumanizing official records on those made most vulnerable by the carceral state. Isabela Quintana (UC Irvine) will discuss her work as a co-director of The Five Chinatowns Project of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. The project seeks to document Chinese American community histories by training college and high school students to conduct oral history interviews and to process them for archival preservation and community access. Our work seeks to build intergenerational relationships while also bringing together community historians, journalists, scholars, and students into conversation around the politics of archival production and the importance of challenging state-produced narratives by telling our own stories.

Asian American Oral History Public History and Memory 21st Century

Session Participants

Dr. Judy Wu, University of California, Irvine


Judy Tzu-Chun Wu is a professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is an associate dean in the School of Humanities, the faculty director of the Humanities Center, and the inaugural director for the Center for Liberation, Anti-Racism, and Belonging. She received her Ph.D. in U.S. History from Stanford University and previously taught at Ohio State University. She authored Dr. Mom Chung of the Fair-Haired Bastards: the Life of a Wartime Celebrity (University of California Press, 2005) and Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Cornell University Press, 2013). Her most recent book, Fierce and Fearless: Patsy Takemoto Mink, First Woman of Color in Congress (New York University Press, 2022), is a collaboration with political scientist Gwendolyn Mink. Wu is currently working on a book that focuses on Asian American and Pacific Islander Women who attended the 1977 National Women’s Conference and co-editing Unequal Sisters, 5th edition with Routledge Press. She also is a co-editor of Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 (Alexander Street Press) and is the co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians.

Dr. Dorothy Fujita-Rony, Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine


Dorothy Fujita-Rony is a Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at University of California, Irvine. She is the author of American Workers, Colonial Power: Philippine Seattle and the Transpacific West, 1919-1941 (University of California Press, 2003) and The Memorykeepers: Gendered Knowledges, Empires, and Indonesian American History (Brill Publishers, 2021). Fujita-Rony has worked with different public history organizations since the late 1980s, including the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the Filipino American National Historical Society, and the Southeast Asian Archive at University of California, Irvine (UCI). She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Department of American Studies, Yale University. Presently, Fujita-Rony is developing a book project on Southeast Asian American archives and knowledge production, and is forming a collaborative oral history project on Filipino Americans in Orange County called “Kwentuhan: Filipino Americans in Orange County and Beyond.”
Presenter Biographies

Dr. Isabela Quintana, UC Irvine


Isabela Seong Leong Quintana (she/her/ella) is an Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of a book manuscript entitled Urban Borderlands: Neighborhood and Nation in Chinese and Mexican Los Angeles, 1870s-1930s, for which she is working with the University of North Carolina Press. Along with two other Asian American Studies professors, she is working with the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California as a Co-Director of the “Five Chinatowns Project” that will culminate in an edited volume in which community members and scholars tell their stories of Chinese American Los Angeles. Quintana earned her Ph.D. in History at the University of Michigan and an M.A. at UT Austin.

Dr. Thuy Vo Dang, University of California, Los Angeles


Thuy Vo Dang (she/her/hers) is Assistant Professor of Information Studies at UCLA where she co-directs the Community Archives Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego and a B.A. in English and Asian American Studies from Scripps College. Her previous role was Curator for the UCI Libraries Southeast Asian Archive and Research Librarian for Asian American Studies . With research and teaching expertise in oral history, Southeast Asian diaspora, community archives, and cultural memory, Thuy brings an interdisciplinary approach to co-creating digital humanities and archival documentation projects with educators and community-based organizations. Her current research and community engagement work center "refugee archival praxis" through the storytelling strategies of first and second generation Vietnamese in the diaspora. She is coauthor of the books A People’s Guide to Orange County (2022) and Vietnamese in Orange County (2015) and has published in Amerasia Journal, AAPI Nexus: Policy, Practice and Community, Health Promotion Practice, History Now: the Journal, Ethnic Studies in Academic and Research Libraries, and Toward a Framework for Vietnamese American Studies.Thuy serves on the board of directors for Arts Orange County and the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association.