Tag Archives: archive

Grad Student Potluck: Enmanuel Martínez

By: Annabel We

Every year, ABD students in the program present a working draft chapter of their dissertation to the faculty and their graduate colleagues over food, potluck style.

Enmanuel Martínez (En. Mar.) is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate working on archive theory, Caribbean and diasporic studies, decolonial thought, and queer theory. The title for his dissertation is “The Archipelago and the Archive: Reading Local Archival Practices and Mediums in Insular and Continental Caribbean Literatures.” A 2012 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and a 2015-2016 graduate fellow in the “Archipelagoes” seminar of the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis (CCA), En. Mar. also served as the co-organizer of our Program’s spring 2014 biannual graduate student conference.

En. Mar. began his presentation with a genealogical and etymological framework and proposed that we think ‘arche-’ and ‘archons’ of archive and archipelago together. Then En. Mar. mapped the topics of each of his dissertation chapters for us, which include soundbites and diasporic poetry, competing archival sovereignty between the U.S. and the Caribbean, and the specificity of climatic and ecological constructs of the archive in the Caribbean exemplified by the archival ‘mold’ (life) as opposed to ‘dust’ (death).

The chosen chapter of the presentation was “Of Cassette Tape “Letters” and Basement Refrigerators: Housing the Archive of the Caribbean Diaspora,” a project that takes hold of existing debates in archive theory and various thinkers of geographic, transnational, and historical ‘theory,’ including Trouillot, D. Taylor, Hall, Y. Bonilla, Said, and Muñoz. En. Mar.’s reading examined the cassette tape ‘letters’ in Schwarz-Bart’s play Your Handsome Captain (1987) and the refrigerators in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) to ask what such archives, of the diaspora from the below, might entail for not only archive theory but also for the diasporic constituency.

En. Mar. focused on mobility, domestic archive, creolization of the archival medium, orality, and ephemera/ the ephemeral. Preliminary conclusions that he shared with us suggested: 1) rethinking the archive as mobile, mirroring diasporic migration and 2) theorizing the non-sovereign archives of the Caribbean that are neither within nor outside the nation.

A lively conversation ensued that returned to the question of domesticity and the archive, on top of various other archives recommended to En. Mar. for his consideration.

Grad Student Summer: Archival Research in China

By: Lina Qu

I was one of the lucky graduate students generously funded by the Mellon Foundation to conduct my two-month archive research in China in the summer 2015. My dissertation on Chinese women’s narratives on hunger demanded extensive readings of Chinese women’s fictional and nonfictional publications over time, including original periodicals and first-edition books. Lack of such resources at Rutgers and in the US generally compelled me to conduct on-site research in China. I chose two sites, Beijing and Shanghai, for their enormous resources accessible in public libraries and university libraries. Over the two months I visited Shanghai Library, Shanghai Archive, Fudan University Library in Shanghai and Chinese National Library, the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature, and Peking University Library in Beijing. I was able to read sources ranging from newspapers and magazines in the 1920s to the cutting-edge academic monographs just published in 2015, from which I gathered valuable first-hand “data” for my dissertation. Some of the materials even inspired me to start my second project on journalism and feminist knowledge production.


With the development of technology, a large part of archive has been digitalized. A physical encounter with the material archive does not only retrieve the Benjaminian aura lost in the digital photos, but also discloses other useful information such as the paratext. Archival research has in itself higher value than just generating “data.” In my case, the reconstruction of Chinese women’s discourse on hunger is only possible if we look beyond the literary canon, which more often than not are accessible to the public outside the archive. Instead, we have to look into “minor” writers and “minor” works of canonical writers. These writers and works have been marginalized or even have gone obsolete in the grand discourse. The archive enables us to revive a historical and cultural memory by and of women, which will be an intervention on the androcentric and hegemonic discourse. In this sense, archival research can be a feminist methodology with tremendous epistemological value.