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History in the making : the construction of community memory and racial subjects in the Boyle Heights exhibition

  • Author(s): Chen, Su-Shuan
  • et al.
Abstract

History in the Making: The Construction of Community Memory and Racial Subjects in the Boyle Heights Exhibition, examines a 2002 exhibition titled Boyle Heights : The Power of Place. Organized and hosted by the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boyle Heights delineated what it was like to live in a multiethnic East Los Angeles community during the early and mid twentieth century. The thesis examines why Boyle Heights was so successful in garnering enthusiasm from the Boyle Heights community. I posit that the exhibit's success was largely due to its compelling narrative depicting Boyle Heights as a unique and ethnically diverse community whose residents built a tight -knit neighborhood while embodying the hallmarks of law- abiding, all-American model citizenship. I argue that this depiction of Boyle Heights helped counteract popular stereotypes of East Los Angeles as a vice-ridden and impoverished zone. While Boyle Heights made many positive contributions to its subject community, I also assert that the exhibition had to leave out important stories in its effort to present a certain image of Boyle Heights. Stories left out include episodes of interethnic conflicts, intraethnic tensions, and subjects suggesting non-model, criminal behaviors. Amidst the effort to delineate Boyle Heights as a harmonious and model example of interethnic community, these silences became a necessary device to convincingly bolster the neighborhood's worthiness of being celebrated and remembered in the context of today's society and public perceptions. More importantly, what do these silences reveal about the workings of racial socioeconomic positioning in American society

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