Hanging Out: A Research Methodology

By Pfaelzer, Jean | Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Hanging Out: A Research Methodology


Pfaelzer, Jean, Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers


It's not just the hunting and gathering--the methods and challenges of location, identification, collection, and re-representation--but the politics of archives that I faced as I curated my first cyber exhibit, "Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance" for the National Women's History Museum. This exhibit, which can be found in its entirety at http://www.nwhm.org/Chinese/1.html, depicts the lives of Chinese American women during their first one hundred years in the United States.(1)

BURIED ALIVE?

From the research I had done for my book Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, I knew that the "archives"--that liminal but highly material space--would likely deliver documents that exposed violence against Chinese women. There, I would find the mass purges of the first Chinese Americans during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, buttressed by cartoons, photographs, and sensational journalism. I would find representations of a national policy that prevented most Chinese women from entering the United States. And, as I expected, in the archives I uncovered slavery, violence, and burlesque. But within the ships' logs, newspaper accounts, habeas corpus actions, and immigration files, Chinese female immigrants' own telling seemed to be mostly silenced. I was searching for the voices and self-representations of the first Chinese American women. Could I find them within these damaging images and nativist records? How could I locate images of Chinese American women that resisted the legislative and violent logic of ethnic cleansing of the three hundred pogroms?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Some of these first Chinese American women were, in a sense, buried alive in national archives, local county historical societies, medical records, ships' logs, government documents, and clipping files--the usual places. Ultimately, it was by hanging out--talking, sharing resources, telling and retelling this history--that I stumbled upon their stories and found their images. For example, a civil rights lawyer and parent at my daughter's school put me in touch with a police officer who shared his precinct's internal records of early Chinese women and men. At our annual block party, I chatted with a neighbor who sold antique toys; he contacted his cyber colleagues to locate an antique cap gun from the 1880s that mechanically mimed a Chinese purge. The sound engineer at a PBS shoot talked about how his tribe hid Chinese miners during the purge from Eureka, California, and revealed that he was a biracial descendant from that troubled moment.

All of us who dig in the archives are nontraditional detectives. We all believe in informed serendipity in the archives. But as I review my four full file cabinets and my boxes upon boxes of documents, images, short stories, maps, engravings, letters, and photographs, I realize that hanging out has been a very good form of historical methodology.

ALL THE USUAL PLACES

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

By law Chinese women were not supposed to have even been in the United States. Initially, I was concerned that I would not find documents and representations of early Chinese American women. My goal was to locate records, images, court cases, legislation, and artifacts that were produced at the time when national policy prevented most Chinese American women from entering the United States, when Congress allowed only the wives of Chinese merchants to enter because with little bound feet they could not leave the house and cause trouble at the time when elected officials and vigilantes worked hand in hand to drive Chinese immigrants out of three hundred towns across the Pacific Northwest (Forty-Third Congress). Once I began looking for archives in all the right places, I found the hidden images and photographs of these women. For example, Chinese friends soon shared dozens of studio photographs of their grandmothers that clearly establish Congress's failure to deliver ethnic cleansing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hanging Out: A Research Methodology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.