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Jason Oliver Chang
Trading Time for Space: The Cultural Politics of History and Representation in Imperial Valley’s Museum Collections

Translocalities/Transmodernities: Thinkspace

11 – 1 p.m. Polycentric Session, UC-Berkeley, Townsend Center for the Humanities
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As Imperial County celebrates its 100th anniversary its residents are poised to reflect on the past century and give consideration to the next hundred years of life in the U.S./Mexico borderlands. One venue, more than any other, has emerged to literally house these critical ruminations; Imperial County Historical Society’s Pioneers Museum and Cultural Center (PMCC). In the early 1990’s important changes to the Historical Society overturned a tradition of white supremacy in the representation and interpretation of Imperial Valley’s historical development. In an effort to expand museum facilities, a fund raiser offered future gallery space to various racialized groups who had immigrated to the valley in exchange for helping to raise the money necessary to build the new facilities. Now the PMCC houses gallery space in which decedents from Africa, China, India, the Philippines, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Portugal, and Switzerland strive to represent themselves and their role in the development of Imperial Valley. Each ethnic group formed a committee where members debated the cultural politics of their own representations and internal heterogeneity in order to form their own museum collections.

This investigation seeks to ask questions of this visual culture by interrogating the translocal circuits of cultural production in the formation of museum collections. Each ethnic group’s gallery committee offers a keyhole in which to peer into the material and social processes which underwrite each gallery’s representation of Imperial Valley’s history. As Imperial Valley’s residents rewrite their own history they also influence the narrativity of the U.S./Mexico border at large which reveals dynamic, and underappreciated, intersections with the Pacific Rim. While Imperial Valley’s racialized residents trade silent memories for museum real estate, the future of this border community remains uncertain.

Participant Bio:

Jason Oliver Chang, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a third year graduate student of the University of California at Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies graduate program. He received his BA from Prescott College in Arizona. Later, he earned a Masters in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and was recently awarded a Masters in Ethnic Studies through his current affiliation. He is currently working toward doctoral candidacy and refining a methodology for pursuing his dissertation topic, Asian Américans of the U.S./Mexico Borderlands.