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“Strangers from a Different Shore”: Examining Archival Representations and Descriptions of the Chinese in America Before and During the Chinese Exclusion Act (1860-1943)


This thesis seeks to examine archival representations of Chinese in America in collections dating from before and during the Chinese Exclusion Era (1860 – 1943), both in mainstream institutional archives/special collections repositories and in smaller community-based archives. Using critical race theory as methodological framework and an interpretivist case study approach, this exploratory study shows a continued lack for transparency surrounding archival description and archival representations within such collections, an uneven distribution of resources across institutions that collect and preserve materials on early Chinese in America, the difficulties of balancing evolving terminologies and changing archival descriptive standards/technology, and the need for collaboration among bibliographers, catalogers, archivists, historians and activists in creating archival descriptions in collections about the Chinese in America. Due to the paucity of current archival studies scholarship on early Chinese in America, this work intends to highlight the presences (or lack of presence) of Chinese in America in various archives and to enhance awareness of their historical influences and contributions within archival records. Such an understudied subject poses an especially significant area of research for future professional and scholarly work in the library and information sciences field.

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