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Cultivating a women and femme-centered intergenerational oral history project

Arita Balaram, Critical Social Personality Psychology
Faculty Advisor: Michelle Fine
NML Award: The Social Justice Award (January 2019)

Cultivating a women and femme-centered intergenerational oral history project

This dissertation project takes a decolonial feminist approach to history by exploring experiences of intergenerational storytelling among Indo-Caribbean women and femme-identified people. The objectives of this project are twofold. First, it seeks to develop a digital archive of stories from Indo-Caribbean women and femmes to counter underrepresentations and misrepresentations of Indo-Caribbean women in archives and historical narratives. Second, this research explores the process of story-sharing across generations. The importance of looking across generations is to understand how time—and the specific socio-political context of a time–shape women’s lives and the stories they tell about themselves. I am interested in the possibilities and tensions that emerge when Indo-Caribbean women and femmes across generations come together to share their stories of historical oppression, resistance, and healing to one another.

Building on the work of intersectional feminist psychologists who argue for the importance of women’s stories to our understanding of inequality, this dissertation problematizes conceptions of whose memories are seen as valuable to our historical knowledge and worthy of being remembered. It goes a step further to explore what it means to remember together, and to contextualize one’s own story with/in the stories of others who continue to live through the trauma and legacies of colonialism.