Reciprocity, Reparative Actions, and Decolonial Work
Reckoning with the colonial complicity and legacy of institutions requires unpacking the promises and challenges of decolonial work. We must also take care to clarify the context of digital repatriation as reciprocal and reparative action. This talk will explore these issues as they relate to cultural collections, through a series of interrelated questions: What constitutes archival decolonization and how does it actually reflect Indigenous epistemologies? How do related concepts of reciprocity, repatriation, and reparation address decolonial actions? And, finally, how can decolonial, reciprocal, and reparative actions inform (and be informed by) digital preservation practices and infrastructures? In considering these questions, I examine the effort to develop a set of culturally-responsive and historically-minded decolonial approaches to Philippine collections at the University of Michigan. The case of “decolonizing” U.S. Philippine materials demands navigating our stewardship responsibilities to former, and current, occupied territories and the larger international Indigenous communities. We can transform our digital work to enact reparative actions that connect collections with communities that have been long separated by colonization.
Dr. Ricardo L. Punzalan, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, is a scholar of archives and digital curation. He studies community access and use of anthropological data in archives, as well as the digitization of ethnographic records held in libraries, archives, and museums. His research has established and shaped practices of virtual reunification and digital repatriation of cultural heritage collections. To do this work, he designs and carries out community-based, participatory research projects, which incorporate the perspectives of cultural heritage stakeholders beyond academic researchers. His scholarship has brought to the fore the critical challenges faced by underserved and Indigenous communities and has created dialogs between communities and cultural institutions. He co-directs ReConnect/ReCollect: Reparative Connections to Philippine Collections at the University of Michigan, a project that develops the framework for, and the practice of, reparative work for Philippine collections acquired by the university during the US colonial period. He is currently co-chair of the Archival Repatriation Committee of the Society of American Archivists and on the Board of Trustees of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. He was recently inducted as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists.