UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

'How do we pronounce our skin in English' : records of transracial, transnational adoption and their implications for archival work Ballin, Mya Xiaoli


In the last decade, archival scholars have begun to deeply reflect upon the experiences of individuals and communities as they interact with administrative and bureaucratic records. What they have found is that there is a significant gap between the emotional experiences of records activators and the experiences that archival repositories are prepared to address. Emerging from these realizations is a call for archivists to better understand the experiences of the personal-in- the-bureaucratic and to take up reparative, caring, and rights-based frameworks in order to respond to these previously unaddressed needs. This thesis builds of existing case studies and concepts within community, personal, and reparative archival spaces and explores the records experiences of a community that has not yet been significantly studied within the discipline: adoptees. Through semi-structured interviews that utilize oral history and object elicitation techniques, this thesis maps out connections between transracial, transnational adoptee experiences of their records and scholarship from the field of adoption studies that examine strategies for constructing identity and a sense of belonging and seeks to connect it to archival concepts of the relational, the silent, and the imaginary. Ultimately, in addition to acting as a space for participants to share their stories—which directly demonstrate the ability of records to both create and collapse space for unanswerable questions—this thesis seeks to take up existing calls to archivists and recordkeepers to consider the impact of the bureaucratic on the personal and how addressing personal-within-the-institutional experiences of records is an urgent and necessary facet for consideration as we move forward into more caring practice.

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