In 1954, Frederic Wertham published the now infamous Seduction of the Innocent, linking juvenile delinquency to comics. Testifying before Congress in 1954, Wertham stated emphatically that “it is my opinion, without any reasonable doubt, and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.” The ensuing uproar on comics’ deleterious effects on the nation’s youth led to the creation of the Comics Magazine Association of American which in turn issued the Comics Code Authority (CCA).
While the adoption of the code by publishers was voluntary, comics without the CCA logo faced an uphill battle in terms of distribution. This de facto censorship system was wide-ranging, touching on such things as how persons in authority could be portrayed, how crimes could be presented, directives on illustrations, and the portrayals of marriage and sex.
The CCA had a long-term chilling effect on the portrayal of LGBTQIA+ characters in mainstream comics; However, its creation led to the vibrant underground comix movement where artists and authors ignored the strict code. Though the CCA was revised several times in the 1970s, loosening some restrictions, it wasn’t until 1992 in Alpha Flight #106 that Marvel’s Northstar stated, “I am gay.” The CCA was totally abandoned in the early 2000s.
Today, though there is still progress to be made, LGBTQIA+ persons and characters are found in graphic novels from superhero-themed to memoirs. The Lilly Graphic Novel Collection is a great place to begin your exploration. Below are a few highlights from our vast collection. Enjoy!
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. In this award winning graphic memoir, Bechdel chronicles her relationship with her distant father, an English teacher and director of the town’s funeral home, “Fun Home” to the Bechdel family. From childhood through her coming out to her parents, Fun Home explores Bechdel’s fraught relationship with her father, the exploration of her sexuality, and a tragedy that leaves her much to reckon with. Fun Home was adapted for Broadway and has the distinction of being the first Broadway musical featuring a lesbian protagonist. It won the Tony award for Best Musical in 2015. Bechdel is also the author of the critically acclaimed Dykes to Watch Out For series.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin (author) and Jenn St.-Onge and Joy San (artists). In 1963, Hazel and Mari meet at church bingo, and their friendship grows into love. This new found love, however, is unacceptable to their families and their community, and Mari’s family moves away. Many years later, after Hazel and Mari each married and raised children, they reconnect at a bingo hall and realize that their feelings are unchanged. Fifty years later, through strength and determination, they claim the life that they always wanted. Bingo Love started as a Kickstarter project until it was picked up by Image Comics.
Our Work is Everywhere by Syan Rose. This graphic non-fiction work highlights the diverse voices in the queer and trans communities. Rose has a broad definition of work, not just what we do in our professional careers but also the ways that we improve ourselves, our communities, and our world. Interviews with queer and trans organizers, health justice activists, martial artists, and more are included, accompanied by Rose’s beautiful and expressive illustrations.
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (author) and Phoebe Kobabe (colorist). Both a memoir and an introduction to eir family and readers on what it means to be non-binary, Kobabe (e/em/eir pronouns) chronicles eir journey of self-identity. Kobabe’s touching and honest story is a useful guide on gender identity for everyone.
HeartstopperbyAlice Oseman. Begun as a serial webcomic in 2016, Heartstopper, available now in two printed volumes, introduces readers to Charlie and Nick who meet and develop a friendship at a British all-boys grammar school. The friendship grows into love. Optioned by Netflix, Heartstopper is slated for live-action adaptation in the near future.
These influential and impactful works are among the hundreds of titles in the Lilly Graphic Novel Collection, located in the first floor Carpenter Room.
Lilly Library presents a sampling of films in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions and influence of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. Creative members of this community include actors, directors, and screenwriters, represented in the vast array of films in the Duke Libraries collections. Lilly shines its spotlight on just a few of our many documentaries, dramas, and animated films to illuminate the perspective of this vibrant and vital community.
Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century–and she continues to fight to this day, at 87.
Symbols of Resistance Stream with Duke NetID This documentary illuminates the untold stories of the Chican@ Movement with a focus on events in Colorado and New Mexico. Through interviews with those who shaped the movement and rare historical footage, the film opens a window into a dynamic moment in history and movement building.
Maria, a poor Columbian teenager, is desperate to leave a soul-crushing job. She accepts an offer to transport packets of heroin – which she swallows – to the United States. The ruthless world of drug trafficking proves to be more than she bargained for.
A BoyCalledSailboatLilly DVD 33374 In a slanted dwelling beyond the outskirts of a drought-ridden town, a close Hispanic family accepts an impossible blessing and name their only son Sailboat. Sailboat stirs new love and hope in his family as they forge a simple but proud life in the American Southwest.
La Misma Luna / Under The Same Moon Lilly DVD 12186 or Stream with Duke NetID
This film follows the parallel stories of nine-year-old Carlitos and his mother, Rosario. In the hopes of providing a better life for her son, Rosario works illegally in the U.S. In Mexico, her mother cares for Carlitos.
This film is an exquisitely crafted coming of age tale following a pair of Latina teens who fall gradually in love against the backdrop of East L.A.
Real Women Have CurvesLilly DVD 2281 Should she leave home, go to college and experience life? Or stay home, get married, and keep working in her sister’s struggling garment factory? It may seem an easy decision, but for 18-year-old Mexican-American Ana, every choice she makes this summer will change her life.
Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
The Book Of LifeLilly DVD 27605 and Ford 6902 or Stream with Duke NetID Embark on a journey with Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart.
Many more films by, and about, the Hispanic and Latinx communities can be found in the Duke University Libraries collections. Honor and celebrate Hispanic and Latinx themes all year long and continue your exploration through our collections.
Post by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
As the nation prepares to mark the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Duke University Libraries are excited to announce the launch of the Witness to Guantanamo Digital Collection. Witness to Guantanamo includes 153 video interviews with former detainees and other individuals—attorneys, chaplains, guards, interrogators, interpreters, government officials, human rights advocates, medical personnel, and journalists—who witnessed the impact of the Guantanamo Bay detention center in the post-9/11 years. An additional 346 short clips from the full-length interviews are also included. English language interviews are accompanied by transcripts, and we are working to transcribe those in other languages as well.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, became the site of the detention center for suspected al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Peter Jan Honigsberg, professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, began Witness to Guantanamo (WtG) in fall 2008, after realizing that no one was collecting and preserving the voices and stories of “Gitmo.” He modelled the project after grassroots truth commissions and the Shoah Foundation’s collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. Professor Honigsberg’s book, A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantanamo, narrates many of the extraordinary, powerful, and rare stories he filmed over the course of a decade and across 20 countries. His book is a tribute to the humanity we all share.
The full set of interviews are now archived at the Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive and available through the digital repository. Witness to Guantanamo is unique. No one else has done this work. While there are many collections and projects dispersed around the world containing documents, case files, and data about Guantanamo and the U.S. War on Terror, WtG is the only collection that foregrounds the voices of the individuals detained there and whose lives were forever changed by the experience. The video interviews cover a wide range of topics, including physical and psychological torture, lawlessness, religious faith, medical care, interrogations, interminable detentions without charges, sham hearings, women at Guantanamo, and acts of courage.
In one interview, former detainee Mourad Benchellali reflects on his efforts to turn his imprisonment from 2002 to 2004 into something positive, in the hope that by hearing his story, young people will not join ISIS or participate in suicide attacks. “I simply tell them my story, telling them, ‘This is what I found out. This is what I saw in Afghanistan,’” Benchellali says. “I tell them about being tortured. I tell them about bombings. I tell them how groups enlist you… I tell them all of this, and I say, ‘Be careful, here are the dangers you may run into over there, as I did. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to you, but you have to decide for yourself.’”
In another interview, detainee attorney Alkha Pradhan discusses the process of trying to defend her client, Ammar al Baluchi. At one point in her interview, she reflects on how the CIA deployed its classification policy to control her client: “You know, even though these are his memories, these are his experiences, the government continues to classify them and continues to prevent him from being able to tell the world about them… by virtue of being him, by virtue of being again, brown, non-citizen, Muslim detainee in the CIA system, everything he says is classified. Everything he thinks is classified.”
These first-hand testimonies reveal the physical, emotional, and political scars inflicted by Guantanamo. They also underscore how the treatment of detainees and the use of extra-legal procedures hobbled rather than enabled the rule of law and the quest for truth and justice. They are an invaluable resource for students, scholars, and people around the world to reflect on the path taken by the U.S. in the years following 9/11. The Human Rights Archive is planning an exhibit based on the Witness to Guantanamo collection for January 2022 at the Power Plant Gallery in downtown Durham to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the first detainees arriving at Guantanamo in 2002. More information about the exhibit will be coming soon.
The fifth post in the blog series on the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Ernest Zitser, Ph.D,Librarian for Slavic, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies, International & Area Studies (IAS) Department, Duke University Libraries (DUL), Library Liaison to the International Comparative Studies Program, and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, Duke University.
We are all still processing the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who murdered George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, exactly one year ago. Each of us is looking for ways to deal with the situation as best we can. From the very beginning, my thoughts have latched on to the uncanny coincidence that the 21st-century American police officer shares the same surname as the 19th-century Napoleonic French soldier for whom “chauvinism”—the prejudiced support for one’s own cause, group, or sex—is named.
As one of the editors of the IAS blog series on equity, diversity, and inclusion in international area studies collecting, I have also been thinking about what Duke’s research librarians, in our official capacity as tillers in the grove of academe, can do to help bring about positive social change. That line of thought has led me to focus on the similarities between two individuals who, at first glance, appear to have very little in common, but whose life’s work speaks precisely to the issues that we have been discussing in our blog posts: Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) and Pauli Murray (1910-1985).
Both the Polish-Jewish international human rights activist and the African-American civil rights leader were trained as lawyers. Both arrived in Durham due to circumstances beyond their control: Lemkin as a refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe, thanks to his American friend and colleague, Professor Malcolm McDermott, of Duke University’s Law School; Murray as an orphaned child, who was taken in by her maternal grandparents and aunt at the age of three.
Despite their intellectual gifts and academic accomplishments, both Lemkin and Murray had a complicated relationship to North Carolina’s elite educational institutions. Lemkin spent fourteen months at Duke University in 1941-1942, but was never allowed to teach in the Law School of this predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon, Methodist establishment, partly because this “white crow” could never successfully pass himself off as a full-blooded “Pole”—the citizen of a freedom-loving “republic” endangered by the forces of “totalitarianism”—rather than as just another refugee Jewish scholar.
Similarly, Murray applied and was denied entry to a Ph.D. program at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1938, not only because she was African American and, as such, proscribed by Jim Crow legislation from attending any public school that was not segregated by race; but also, if perhaps less obviously, because she lived as a (genderqueer) woman in a heteronormative, patriarchal society governed by the (un)written codes of what she later described as “Jane Crow.”
One of the qualities that makes Lemkin and Murray such extraordinary individuals is that they did not meekly accept the status quo but, rather, successfully used their unique skill sets to push back against the laws and attitudes that sought to marginalize them. They did so in part by authoring books that changed the world. Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress (1944)—available in both print and electronic versions at DUL—coined the term “genocide,” provided some of the legal argumentation for the trials of Nazi war criminals at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg (1945-1949), and ultimately became the basis for the United Nations’ “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (1951).
Despite their different backgrounds, both lawyers adopted a similar approach to the primary sources that served as the basis of their landmark scholarly publications. During his brief stay at Duke, Lemkin worked on compiling, translating, and contextualizing the racially based legislation imposed on the formerly free citizens of the European countries conquered at the start of World War II by Nazi Germany and its allies.
His analysis of German-language gazettes published by Nazi military governments—an impressive collection of which is available at DUL—demonstrated the existence, and deliberate implementation, of a formally legal, but (Lemkin argued) internationally criminal set of laws meant to expropriate, exploit, and, ultimately, exterminate an entire group of people (Jews) whom the Nazi’s defined as a subhuman “race.”
Similarly, Murray’s groundbreaking research boldly tackled the racially based legislation imposed on the formerly enslaved and only recently enfranchised citizens of the United States—including in her adopted home state of North Carolina—by the democratically elected representatives of the American people.
Her analysis demonstrated that from the very beginning of the post-Civil War “Era of Reconstruction,” the freely elected leaders of the formally democratic and egalitarian republic imposed a set of discriminatory laws explicitly designed to deprive African-American citizens of their constitutional rights, to institutionalize racial segregation, and to terrorize this racialized minority into submission to white supremacy.
The political significance of the works penned by Lemkin and Murray cannot be overstated, especially during the turbulent times in which we presently find ourselves. In their professional yet impassioned writings, these two legal scholars showed that, regardless of whether it resulted from military conquest or the democratic electoral process, a racist legal system was ultimately based on the threat (and frequent application) of violence against the bodies and psyches of the members of the outcast group, rather than on the principles dictated by ethical conceptions of equity and human rights. Furthermore, by their personal commitment to the cause of social justice, they demonstrated that scholarship was not divorced from real life and that “ivory-tower” academics had as much to contribute to positive change “out there” in the world as full-time political activists. It is for this reason, as much as for their books, that Lemkin and Murray have become revered role models of the international movement for the rights of everyone—regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation—who has ever experienced the toxic effects of chauvinism.
From the perspective of academic librarians, the lives and works of Lemkin and Murray demonstrate the vital importance of our mission to collect, preserve, and curate the research material that serves as the basis of paradigm-changing scholarship. Neither Lemkin nor Murray could have done the research that informed their arguments were it not for the law books—both foreign and domestic—that were purchased and made accessible to these avid users of academic research libraries. At Duke, this type of collecting for diversity continues, not only in the Goodson Law Library, but also in the other repositories that make up the university library system.
Another example is the work of the library’s Human Rights Archive, which “partners with the human rights community to preserve the history and legacy of human rights around the world.” Even a brief look at the Archive’s online guide, which now includes a link to a guide about Raphael Lemkin at Duke, demonstrates that collecting and curating materials on international movements for political, socio-economic, and racial justice is an important component of how Duke libraries seeks to support the university’s mission of fostering the kind of transformative scholarship that is exemplified by the works of Lemkin and Murray.
Like these other library units, the International and Area Studies department has eagerly taken up the challenge of creating a “supportive environment for research, learning, and academic community” and “strengthening Duke’s capacity to address global challenges for communities across the world” (the third and fourth goals of the University’s academic strategic plan). The international and area studies collections built and curated by IAS staff demonstrate that racialized judicial systems and the violence that they generate are located all over the globe and characterize all kinds of polities. Ascribed definitions of social identity, the legal mechanisms that enforce them, and the civil rights activism that is required to reform systems of institutionalized discrimination and oppression are not the monopoly of any one country or political party. Unfortunately, the contemporary United States is not the only place in the world to demonstrate the ease and rapidity with which conspiracy-minded, populist demagogues and their supporters (both in and out of the halls of power), can stoke the fears of an already-anxious electorate of formally democratic countries and channel these feelings into legalized expressions of xenophobia, discrimination, and violence.
The books on post-Communist Russia and eastern Europe that I collect, for example, offer plenty of evidence for the proposition that it doesn’t take much for the judicial system of a formally democratic country to fall into the clutches of a corrupt, conservative, political party bent on undermining the rule of law and institutionalizing policies that trample on the human rights of racial, religious, and sexual minorities. These contemporary case studies also demonstrate the important role that concerned individuals, domestic civil rights groups, and international organizations play in holding oppressive and illiberal regimes accountable for their actions. In so doing, the materials in Duke’s Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies collection not only inform students about international developments or provide scholars with the qualitative and quantitative data needed to conduct robust comparative and cross-cultural studies. They also acquaint political activists with potential partners in the global struggle against all forms of oppression and provide strategies for pursuing a viable, international, human rights agenda.
Today, on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, we still do not know whether Chauvin’s conviction is a milestone in the process of dismantling a racially based caste system that undergirds carceral capitalism in the age of surveillance or merely an exception that proves the rule. What we do know is that the outcome depends on what we—all of us—do to ensure that chauvinism never trumps the rule of law.
Like other members of the Duke community, the university’s academic librarians are committed to supporting anti-racist scholarship, leadership, and service. As citizens of both the American republic and the international republic of letters, we also have the opportunity and the means (despite straitened circumstances) to make a difference on both the local and the global levels. That is why I am so confident that the research materials strategically selected by Duke University’s archivists, curators, and international area studies librarians will make it possible for a new generation of Lemkins and Murrays to publish paradigm-shifting books that will help us to imagine, and work towards realizing, a more humane, equitable, and just world.
Explore films from the Duke Libraries to educate yourself about the significant contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to U.S. culture, and as a reminder of ongoing challenges they face, along with the anti-racist work that we have yet to do.
The Celine Archive Streaming video – Duke netid/password required The Celine Archive is simultaneously an act of journalism, a journey into family and community memory and archives, a love poem, a story of grief and trauma, and a séance for the buried history of Filipino-Americans. Filmmaker and scholar Celine Parreñas Shimizu artfully weaves together her own story of grief with the story of the tragic death of Celine Navarro, which has become lore. In 1932, Navarro was buried alive by her own community of Filipino-Americans in Northern California, but the circumstances surrounding her death were and are unclear and have oft been spun, sensationalized, and dramatized. The filmmaker, a grieving mother with ties to the same community, finds resonance with Navarro’s memory and long-lost story, and she sets out to first learn — and then tell — the truth about Navarro’s death, ultimately portraying her as a feminist heroine.
Asian Americans Lilly DVD 33607 | Streaming video – Duke netid/password required
Asian Americans is a five-hour film PBS series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided, while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate and personal lives, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played in shaping the nation’s story.
The Chinese Exclusion Act DVD 31536 | Streaming video – Duke netid/password required
This American Experience documentary examines the origin, history and impact of the 1882 law that made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America and for Chinese nationals already here ever to become U.S. citizens. The first in a long line of acts targeting the Chinese for exclusion, it remained in force for more than 60 years.
Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege
Streaming video – Duke netid/password required
Inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for 2020. Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege paints a portrait of a mountain that has become a symbol of the Hawaiian struggle for physical, cultural and political survival. The program explores conflicting forces as they play themselves out in a contemporary island society where cultures collide daily. In an effort to find commonalities among indigenous people elsewhere regarding sacred mountains, the documentary visits Apache elders of Arizona who face the reality of telescope development on their revered mountain, Dzil Nchaa Si An, known as Mt. Graham.
Who Killed Vincent Chin? Lilly DVD 28025 | Streaming video – Duke netid/password required
This Academy-Award nominated film is a powerful statement about racism in working-class America. It relates the stark facts of Vincent Chin’s brutal murder. Outrage filled the Asian-American community, after his accused murderer received a suspended sentence and a small fine, to the point where they organized an unprecedented civil rights protest. His bereaved mother, brought up to be self-effacing, successfully led a nationwide crusade for a retrial. This tragic story is interwoven with the whole fabric of timely social concerns. It addresses issues such as the failure of our judicial system to value every citizen’s rights equally, the collapse of the automobile industry under pressure from Japanese imports, and the souring of the American dream for the blue collar worker.
Looking for Feature Films and more?
Lilly Library’s collection of feature films about Asian American and Pacific Islanders is rich and deep! Classic films, romantic comedies, family dramas, etc., created by Asians and Asian Americans are available to entertain and inspire you.
Guest post by Ciara Healy, Librarian for Psychology & Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Physics
Every month, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DivE-In) of the Duke University Libraries recommends five free activities, programs, and educational opportunities that address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. For more about diversity initiatives at the Duke University Libraries, visit our website.
Free and open to the public via YouTube. You can vote for best picture! After viewing the entire program, please vote for the 2021 Audience Choice Award winner in the survey linked below: https://tinyurl.com/2021AudienceChoic… Survey password: audience2021vote. Roll out your own red carpet, dress fancy, sit in your limo, wait for a long time and complain about how your fancy outfit is itchy.
A weekly conversation cycle with international curators, facilitated by FHI Social Practice Lab Director Pedro Lasch. “The first year of the public program will focus on short online dialogues with individual guests. Our one hour long remote events will begin with a casual interview, focusing on the particular trajectory and ideas of each guest in the series, followed by comments from a respondent and questions from the audience.” Registration required.
“This handbook generates new insights that enrich our understanding of the history of Islam in Africa and the diverse experiences and expressions of the faith on the continent. The chapters in the volume cover key themes that reflect the preoccupations and realities of many African Muslims.” Registration required.
Use this link to access the registration page via the Center for Documentary Studies. Register for particular events or the whole series. Please note that this is an ongoing series and there are earlier Teach the Teacher sessions available to view now. No need to recreate your Film Showcase routine. Stay humble.
The fourth post in the blog series on the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Luo Zhou, Chinese Studies Librarian, International and Area Studies Department, Duke University Libraries.
Collecting for global diversity is more than a matter of identifying, locating, and acquiring distinctive, international and area studies materials for Duke University Libraries (DUL). In order for these resources to be useful to students and researchers, foreign language materials must also be described and organized in a way that makes them comprehensible, accessible, and discoverable. Librarians from the International and Area Studies (IAS) Department collaborate closely with the catalogers, archivists, and metadata specialists in our Technical Services (TS) Department in order to make that happen as smoothly and efficiently as possible with finite financial and human resources at DUL’s disposal.
As the following description of the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating multilingual metadata for the digital collection of Sidney D. Gamble Photographs demonstrates, cataloging international materials poses not only a technical and linguistic challenge, but also an intellectual and ethical one. That is because the act of translation—in this case, from one format type (analog/digital) and language (English/Chinese) to another—requires the active intervention of a diverse group of library staff with both the subject expertise and the cultural literacy to provide just the right description at just the right time.
The collection of 4,700 black-and-white photographs and 600 hand-colored lantern slides amassed by the prominent Sinologist, sociologist, and amateur photographer Sidney D. Gamble (1890-1968) depicts pre-revolutionary China’s urban and rural life, public events, architecture, religious statuary, and the countryside in the 1920s and 1930s. Over the course of his long and illustrious academic career, Gamble published seven books on China and always used his photographs to supplement his narrative. He even created an index of roll numbers, exposure numbers, and brief captions, which usually included the place names and subjects depicted in his photos. This index functioned, in effect, as the analog version of the initial metadata that was used to describe the digitized version of Gamble’s photos. But, as I will demonstrate below, this was only the beginning of the process of cataloging, contextualizing, and providing access to the images in the Gamble digital collection.
As Duke’s subject specialist on China, I started working on the black-and-white images in early 2008, when the Gamble collection first arrived at DUL’s Rare Book and Special Collections (now Rubenstein) Library. The original nitrate negatives had just been digitized and placed in cold storage, to preserve them in perpetuity. Gamble’s own handwritten and typed captions, which were digitized alongside these fragile negatives, were transformed into raw text using optical character recognition (OCR) software. The digital version of Gamble’s captions thus became the foundation for the image captions and geographic headings of the Gamble digital collection as a whole. The collection was published on the DUL website in fall 2008 and immediately attracted the attention of researchers worldwide. The hand-colored lantern slides were digitized and added to the digital collection in 2014. Another photo album, containing 170 images of Gamble’s first China trip with his family, was the latest item digitized and added to the database in 2019. The Gamble digital collection that now resides on DUL’s website and servers, therefore, is a careful compilation and comprehensive presentation of all his photographs and slides together with metadata in four different languages: English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Creating bilingual geographic headings in English and Chinese
In 2008, the expert staff in DUL’s Technical Services department extracted out of the raw text from the digitized image labels a list of all toponyms (proper names of places) identified by Gamble. Removing the duplicates left a list of roughly 1,000 alphabetically organized entries for me to work on. That is, I took on the task of adding the Romanized form of Chinese characters—a system of transliteration known as Pinyin—to these place names. After going through the spreadsheet and identifying (and excluding) duplicates, I was able to reduce the total list to about 500 relatively unique geographic place names.
Next, I grouped these Chinese place names into three general categories. The first category consisted of the proper names of well-known and popular places that foreigners regularly visited in early twentieth century China. Gamble’s spellings of these place names—such as Hangchow (for Hangzhou 杭州) and Beijing’s Lama Temple (for Yonghegong 雍和宫)—relied on an earlier, popular, Romanization form of Chinese characters (known as Wade-Giles) and was relatively easy to identify for anyone familiar with the history of the transliteration systems used in the field of Chinese studies. The second, and much smaller group of Chinese toponyms, consisted of photographs depicting locations in neighboring Russia, Japan, and Korea; places with general, descriptive titles (“On the Sea”); and those that lacked any identifying information. The geographical heading assigned to this group usually just referred to the names of the countries that Gamble had visited on his various trips to Asia. The third, and most challenging, group consisted of toponyms for remote or lesser-known locations, as well as those known by a different geographical name than the one in use today. Gamble’s Romanization of these place names was inconsistent and often did not use the standard systems available to him. In fact, many of the geographical names in the last group could not properly identified until a year or two after Gamble’s photos arrived at Duke, sometime in 2009 or 2010, when I was able to do additional archival research about Gamble’s trips and his work in China. And a few were identified more than six years after the database was published when a Chinese blogger provided a clue.
Initially the digitized images and the typed image labels resided in separate locations on the DUL server. Since these items were not yet linked to each other in the database, it was impossible to compare Gamble’s photographs with the captions and geographic locations that supposedly described them. Luckily, after inspecting the physical materials, I realized that Gamble filed his negatives with roll number and exposure number in the order of his visits to different places. By arranging the photos by their roll numbers, I was able to reconstruct his trips in sequence. Inspecting the physical collection also led me to conclude that Gamble used two different photo cameras, which he called “Camera A” and “Camera B.” The negatives of the photos produced by these cameras have roll numbers from 2A to 95A and from 1B to 77B. Later Gamble relied primarily on Camera A, so we have roll numbers from 96 to 663, which actually are 96A to 663A.
To give you an example of how I used these archival discoveries to improve the metadata for the Chinese place names used by Gamble, let’s examine the images in rolls from 2A to 95A and from 1B to 36B, which cover the places Gamble visited from May to October in 1917, when he arrived at Shanghai, before travelling up the Yangtze River into Sichuan (四川) Province. Since most of the photos from this trip were taken in Sichuan Province, the place name that Gamble assigned to Image 1 (Fu Chou in roll 21A) must be located somewhere in Sichuan, despite the fact that this place name also sounds very similar to FooChow (Fuzhou 福州), a city in Fujian (福建), which is an entirely different province. So it is reasonable to conclude that Gamble’s designation (Fu Chou) actually refers to Fuzhou (涪州), which later came to be called Fuling (涪陵), a city famous for its pickles (榨菜). In order to make this location more discoverable in the digital collection, the metadata for this geographic place name now includes both its modern name (Fuling) and its old name (Fuzhou).
To take another, somewhat more complicated example, let’s inspect the toponyms that Gamble assigned to the photo of the walking “spinner” (Image 2). This label confusingly refers to two different place names: Li Fan and Tsa Ka Lo. However, since this photo comes from roll B22, these places must also be located in Sichuan Province. Li Fan is clearly a reference to Lifan County (Lifan Xian 理番县), which changed its name to Li County (Li Xian 理县) in 1945. The County is in today’s Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (阿坝藏族羌族自治州). The Chinese character 番 means “foreign tribe” while 理 means “to manage.” People living in this region are mainly Tibetans and Qiangs, plus some Hui and Han Chinese. In the eighteenth century, Qianlong Emperor appointed rotating officials to rule this region as a way of incorporating minority groups living on the frontiers of the Qing Empire. The Chinese character for “foreign tribe” (番) was removed from the county name during the Republican era (1912-1949) because of its derogatory connotation, suggesting that the residents of this region were not Han Chinese. The county government sits at Zagunao Town (杂谷脑镇), which comes from Tibetan phrase for “land of good fortune,” as heard and spelled by the Han Chinese. It is not difficult to match Zagunao with Tsa Ka Lo, Gamble’s Romanization of the Chinese place name. The metadata for this place now includes both the old and the modern names (in Pinyin and Chinese characters), which makes it easier for users of this digital collection to match the image with other, textual sources.
Locating the actual place name for Gamble’s “So Village” presented a somewhat different challenge. That name appears on 85 photographs in rolls from both Camera A (44A to 51A) and Camera B (17B to 19B). Judging by its location in the sequence of photographs, this village must also have been located in Sichuan Province, most likely somewhere in the triangle region formed by Mao County (茂县), Wenchuan County (汶川县) and Li County (理县). Since there are also at least three different Chinese words for “village”—cun (村), zhuang (庄) or zhai (寨)—locating it in one of these counties required figuring out what Gamble meant by the word “So.” My initial guess, which was based on the assumption that “So” referred to the name of the honored ancestor of one of the more prominent families in this village, led me to suggest that Gamble’s “So Village” was really called either Suo Cun (索村) or Su Cun (苏村). Unfortunately, neither place name was found in that geographical area.
The actual name and location of Gamble’s “So Village” remained a mystery until a researcher in Sichuan brought my attention to a blog post from China in 2014. According to the Chinese blogger, the name of this agricultural settlement was the Village of Suo Chieftain (Suo Tusi 索土司), called Wasi Tusi Guanzhai (瓦寺土司官寨). With this hint, I went through DUL’s copy of the local gazetteer for the counties of Mao and Wenchuan and confirmed the blogger’s findings. The village of So is located in Wenchuan County and is populated mainly by Rgyalrong Tibetans, who moved to this part of China a very long time ago. Rgyalrong Tibetans believe that they are the descendants of the mythological “Great Peng Bird” (Dapengniao, 大鹏鸟) and therefore use a bird as their totem. Interestingly, one of Gamble’s photos (Image 3) shows a guardian statue on top of a gateway: it has a bird’s head and a human’s body and is holding a snake in its hands. This image from the Gamble collection matches the description of the village entrance in a local gazetteer published in 1997. And so, now, the metadata for “So Village” has been updated to read: Wasi Tusi Guanzhai (瓦寺土司官寨), located in Miansi Town (绵虒镇) of Wenchaung County (汶川县).
Adding Metadata, Adding Value
As these three examples suggest, identifying and assigning accurate geographical descriptions to the photos in DUL’s Gamble digital collection is as much an art as a science. Usually, it depends on a knowledge of the language and history of China and a good bit of research. But, sometimes, all you need is a helpful hint from a user located on the other side of the globe. The fact that the blog post about the contemporary name of “So Village” would never have been brought to my attention if the digital collection did not include Chinese language metadata only serves to confirm the importance of creating bilingual geographic headings for digital collections of non-English materials.
The “added value” of revising metadata cannot be put into strictly monetary terms; nor can it always be counted, like the number of clicks on a webpage. The value of including bilingual geographic headings, for example, is not merely a matter of convenience, i.e. the fact that it allows researchers who may be familiar with only one place name to identify all the photographs in the Gamble collection that are associated with this toponym. Revision of metadata also makes it possible to uncover the existence of suppressed, unknown, or undocumented subjects in DUL’s image collections (such as the Han Chinese of Zagunao and the Rgyalrong Tibetans of Wasi Tusi Guanzhai). But its true value lies in the intention to establish a meaningful connection between the international and area studies materials collected by DUL’s subject specialists and the researchers who use them, irrespective of where these researchers happen to live, what religion they practice, and what language they speak. And it is precisely because of DUL’s commitment to such cosmopolitan values that the geographical headings in the Gamble digital collection will continue to be updated and revised as new research findings come out.
April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). To commemorate the anniversary, we’re highlighting powerful films in Lilly Library’s collection that illuminate and interrogate this urgent, essential issue.
On the Record(2020, dirs. Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering)
streaming video | Duke netid/password required On the Record presents the haunting story of former A&R executive Drew Dixon, whose career and personal life were upended by the alleged abuse she faced from her high-profile male bosses. The documentary follows Dixon as she grapples with her decision to become one of the first women of color, in the wake of #MeToo, to come forward to publicly accuse hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct.
Primas (2018, dir. Laura Bari) Lilly DVD 32294
Primas is an evocative and poetic portrait of two Argentine teenage cousins who come of age together as they overcome the heinous acts of violence that interrupted their childhoods.
The Bystander Moment: Transforming Rape Culture at its Roots(2018, dir. Jeremy Earp)
streaming video | Duke netid/password required
The #MeToo movement has shined much-needed light on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and abuse and created unprecedented demand for gender violence prevention models that actually work. The Bystander Momenttells the story of one of the most prominent and proven of these models – the innovative bystander approach developed by pioneering scholar and activist Jackson Katz and his colleagues at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society in the 1990s. Check out this and other films on gender violence prevention in the Media Education Foundation collection.
Breaking Silence: a Film (2017, dir. Nadya Ali) Lilly DVD 31056
In Breaking Silence: a Film, Three Muslim women share their stories of sexual assault–and, in a deeply personal way, they challenge the stigma that has long suppressed the voice of survivors. Throughout America, many Muslim communities persist in stigmatizing all discussion of sex-related subjects. This documentary takes a radical and humanizing approach to the emotional scars of sexual assault, giving women the space to share their voices without shame.
And coming soon to Lilly’s film collection: SISTERS RISING, a powerful feature documentary about six Native American women reclaiming personal and tribal sovereignty. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than all other American women, federal studies have shown, with one in three Native women reporting having been raped during her lifetime. Their stories shine an unflinching light on righting injustice on both an individual and systemic level.
The third post in the blog series on the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Heidi Madden, Ph.D., Librarian for Western European and Medieval Renaissance Studies, International and Area Studies Department, Duke University Libraries.
Muslims represented around 5% of the total European Union (EU) population in 2016, and according to the World Fact Book, the highest numbers of Europe’s Muslims reside in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East (and parts of Africa) and seeking asylum in the EU has prompted heated debates about immigration, social integration, security policies, and religious freedom. In response to these debates, governments in several different EU countries have passed legislation restricting religious expression in public places (especially schools) in an effort to maintain a strict separation between church and state and to foster religious pluralism without creating civil strife.
The headscarf (Arabic: حجاب ḥijāb, “cover, wrap, curtain, veil, screen, partition”) traditionally worn by some Muslim women in the presence of people outside of their immediate family, has received negative attention in these debates because it is seen as a visible signifier of religious identity. The first major controversy about women wearing Islamic headscarves occurred in France, in 1989, when three female students were suspended from school for refusing to remove their head scarfs (the media coverage at the time can be followed in our French newspaper database Eureka). This incident sparked controversy about the extent to which government legislation should be used for negotiating culture clashes. In the end, France passed a law in 2004 banning ostentatious religious clothing or objects in public schools, including the Islamic head scarf, the Jewish brimless cap (Hebrew: כִּיפָּה, kippah, “dome”), and large Christian crosses. Since then, several European Union countries introduced similar legislation. A 2017 European Commission report on “Religious Clothing and Symbols in Employment,” authored by members of the European Network of Legal Experts in Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination and freely-available on the website of the Publications Office of the European Union, describes the chronology in greater detail.
It is within, and in response, to this polarized political context that Ayşe Taşci (b. 1983), a Turkish-born (Aydin, Turkey), German-based (in Bonn since 2003) photographer organized ÇAPRAŞIK – Verwickelt, a well-received exhibit of contemporary photographs featuring ḥijāb-wearing women.
The exhibit, which took place in 2010, asked the viewers to question how they look at a woman in a Muslim headscarf and what they see when they do so. The rich, multilayered meaning of the hyphenated exhibition title, which employed both the Turkish word çapraşık and the German word Verwickelt, explicitly evoked the sense of being tangled, wrapped-up, complicated, knotted, complicit, and involved. These are the perfect words to describe the questions raised by Taşci’s photo exhibit. What is the relationship between veiling and unveiling? Does the wearer of a ḥijāb hide or reveal her (religious, cultural, gendered) identity? Is the Muslim headscarf oppressive or emancipatory? How does a photographer represent the woman who wears a ḥijāb ? And how does photography itself veil, unveil, or stage the identity of women wearing a head covering?
For example, what happens to viewer’s expectations when a photographer chooses to represent an ordinary woman’s wig as a headscarf? In Turkey, until 2013, wearing the veil at university, and other places, was prohibited. In order to get around this law, Turkish women would wear a headscarf over their hair and then put a wig over the headscarf. Would the act of photographing this kind of life-hack advance or hinder women’s participation in the public sphere?
Taşci’s exhibit helped visitors examine the complicated dynamic between their own unexamined, and often prejudiced, way of seeing the ḥijāb. Viewers also became aware of the often-unacknowledged power wielded by photographers, and the mass media in general, in creating positive or negative discourse through the mobilization of emotive images. By this means, the exhibit “entangled” the viewer and created “a space for open discourse, controversial debates and dialog between photography, art and people.”
The exhibit ÇAPRAŞIK – Verwickelt was based on Ayşe Taşci’s master’s thesis at Folkwang University of the Arts (Essen, Germany), which was published in a very small print run at the beginning of her professional career. Professor Claudia Koonz, a noted European Studies expert at Duke University, who discovered the exhibit, suggested that the library purchase Taşci’s Diplomarbeit, because it is an evocative example of the kind of visual materials often used as primary sources, both in student term papers and in academic research publications. The acquisition of this primary visual source strengthens Duke University Libraries’ collection on Turkish-German relations, Islamophobia, gender, visual, and migration studies in Europe. It also contributes to the pedagogical mission of the university by emphasizing visual literacy— an increasingly important skill of critical thinking and an essential component of a 21st-century education—potentially serving as the library’s counterpart to the visual materials in How Do You Look?, the online portal for the promotion of visual literacy hosted by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Just as importantly, the acquisition of this rare publication, which at the time of this writing is still held only by Duke University Libraries, allows us to see the Muslim experience in Europe from Taşci’s unique perspective. The book thus serves not only as a physical reminder of our commitment to building collections of distinction, but also to the broader mission of collecting for global diversity.
Readers who wish to see more photos from Ayşe Taşci’s exhibit on the ḥijāb are welcome to check out her book, which is located in the Lower Stacks (LL2) of the Perkins & Bostock Library on Duke’s West Campus. You can also can consult the online article about ÇAPRAŞIK – Verwickelt on the German website Art à la Turka, which contains a number of evocative images from the exhibit.
The second post in the IAS blog series on the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Holly Ackerman,Head, International & Area Studies Dept. and Librarian for Latin American, Iberian and Latino/a/x Studies.
The need to collaborate in collecting has risen swiftly on library agendas everywhere as a result of both the financial crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic and the simultaneous rise in concern about promoting and augmenting diversity, equity and inclusion. Everyone is asking, “How can we collect and spotlight a wider range of voices, cultures, races, languages, genders, and cross-cutting themes even as our budgets stumble and fall?”
Here at Duke University Libraries, we are fortunate to participate in a long and healthy tradition of cooperation within the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN), where the collaboration between Duke’s International and Area Studies Department (IAS) and UNC’s Global Resources and Area Studies Section (GRAS) is particularly vigorous. But other, lesser-known national projects have also steadily obtained unique, difficult-to-acquire, ethnically- and linguistically-diverse materials. One of these, which I will describe in this blog post, is the Latin American & Caribbean Distributed Resources Project (DRP).
Coordination of DRP is located at the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago as part of their overall Global Resources Program and is now celebrating twenty-five years of systematically assuring deep collecting of culturally and linguistically diverse materials from the thirty-three countries in the region.
What is the Distributed Resources Project?
DRP is a pledge made by 35 university research libraries in 1995, to reallocate a portion of their collections budget for Latin America toward enhanced coverage of ‘non-core’ materials in order to collect more deeply in specific areas of institutional specialization. Each institution chose 1-3 subjects of particular strength at their university where other universities would have interest but probably lack funds to collect deeply. The project deliberately built on existing strengths, believing it would lead to long-range commitment. After 25 years it’s still working!
Chosen subjects included particular countries, geographic regions, or unique subjects such as the African Diaspora in Latin America (the U. of Wisconsin) or Indigenous Languages and Literature (Indiana University). Duke University initially chose to collect on Latin American & Caribbean Labor History and the struggles for justice that accompany labor organizing. In 2003, we added a second focus on Political Humor & Caricature. Each institution began by diverting 7% of their overall budget for Latin American Studies to the selected resource area while relying on other institutions to pick up deep collecting in their chosen area. Each institution also pledged to rapidly process materials acquired by DRP so that they would be rapidly available to users everywhere via their institution’s interlibrary loan service.
Over time these small amounts have grown and in the last two annual reports (with only 25 of 35 members reporting) collective spending ranged from $400,000 to $500,000 per year. Over the life of the program, more than $10 million has been devoted to this deep collecting dive. Small initial steps have resulted in distinctive collections (in local languages) that are rapidly available, and, equally important, are known to Latin American Studies librarians everywhere.
How do we obtain the DRP materials?
First, you put on your walking shoes. I remember well walking the “miles of aisles” at Guadalajara, Mexico’s huge national book fair a few years ago, where hundreds of exhibitors offer limited-edition books in Spanish, Portuguese, and indigenous languages published throughout Latin America.
Over 800,000 thousand people attend this fair annually. Schoolchildren from every part of Mexico are bused to the fair to encourage their interest in books and reading. The kids rub shoulders with world-class intellectuals who speak about their work. And, of course, Latin American Studies Librarians are there is such large numbers that they give us a couple of days before the fair opens to the public to be sure that the books make it into libraries throughout the world.
At each stand I routinely ask whether they have materials in our DRP collecting areas. One vendor pulled out a box that was not on display containing a series called The History of Graphic Humor (La historia del humor gráfico), in thirteen volumes, one on each major country in Latin America and Iberia. In order to feature local appreciation of humor in each country, the publisher engaged a well-known local historian of the subject as the author. The books contained history and illustrative examples of political satire and popular cartoons from colonial days to the present.
They had just one complete set at the fair and I got it. A great find for our deep collecting! Each year when students in Spanish and Latin American Studies courses ask me where they can find political cartoons and learn about the graphic artists, I see the value of that purchase. And those numbers are growing as more students include primary, graphic materials in their class presentations.
Another way to meet our DRP commitment is to couple conference attendance with book-buying. In 2018, I was able to participate in the annual Latin American Studies Association Congress in Barcelona, which is the publishing capital of Spain. I extended my stay for a couple of days to go to over 20 specialized bookstores and publishing houses. Best known and unique among the bookstores is El Lokal, which is located in a section of town historically renowned as the site of labor-organizing and -protest. The district was the epicenter of resistance to the fascist Franco regime and you can feel history in those streets.
In a very small space, the book store carries a huge cross-section of Marxist, anarchist, Trotskyist and other leftist thought . And since El Lokal is also a publisher, the store is chock-full of books about everything related to the labor movement, from labor resistance in Spain to indigenous resistance to forced labor under Spanish colonization in what is today Latin America.
In other words, this independent, specialized, local bookstore is a veritable treasure trove for a librarian tasked with finding and acquiring unique material on Iberian and Latin American labor history, politics, and theory. This sort of in-country “shopping” not only deepens our DRP collection but also saves money. Our regular Spanish book vendor worked with me to have all the books I selected (at a discount negotiated at each store in Barcelona) moved to their warehouse in Madrid and sent to Durham simply at the shipping cost. Those savings outstrip the cost of the book-buying trip itself.
These are just a couple of examples among many of how we in IAS cooperate with other libraries to be sure that collecting on unique and important subjects is systematically covered and not forgotten in hard times.
The Duke University Libraries can also be proud of the fact that Deborah Jakubs, Ph.D. , Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian, Vice Provost for Library Affairs, and Duke’s former Latin American Librarian, was one of the founders of the Global Resources Program of which the DRP is a part. When asked how she and her colleagues came up with the idea for this exemplar of cooperative collection development she replied, “We were trying different ‘proof of concept’ approaches to sharing responsibility for collection building in area studies.” In difficult financial times such as the present, the DRP members have turned that proof of concept into a tradition assuring that diverse perspectives from Spain, Latin America, and the Caribbean will be represented in the distinctive holdings of Duke University Library and, thanks to interlibrary loan and resource-sharing arrangements with TRLN and the IvyPlus Libraries Confederation, in university research libraries throughout the United States.
Those wishing to read more about the Global Resources Projects on Latin America will want to consult the description offered by one of the founders of this initiative, the late Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collection Development, Dan Hazen, “The Latin Americanist Research Resources Project: A New Direction for Monographic Cooperation?” ARL: A Bimonthly Newsletter of Research Library Issues and Actions (April 1997), pp. 1-6.
This prefatory blog post to a series exploring the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Sean Swanick, Luo Zhou, and Ernest Zitser, respectively the Chinese, Middle Eastern & Islamic, and Russian, Eurasian, & East European studies librarians, in the International and Area Studies Department of Duke University Libraries.
One can think of the variegated research materials (foreign-language books, journals, databases, photographs, postcards, etc.) acquired by the staff of Duke University Library’s International and Area Studies (IAS) department in at least two ways. For some, they are the relatively poorly-circulating counterparts of the bread-and-butter titles in a predominantly English-language, general collection. For others, they are a unique, difficult-to-acquire, distinct, and special collection (with a small “S”) in its own right. However, regardless of how they are described, their provenance, or their eventual location within the library (on- or off-site, general- or special collection), international materials serve as conduits of ideas and identities across linguistic boundaries and cultural barriers. In this way, international collections are both transgressive and transformative.
This diversity applies not only to the material resources that IAS librarians collect to further the research and teaching of international topics at Duke University, but also to the core mission, organization, and composition of the department itself. Not surprisingly, IAS is structured by geography and seeks to represent as many different parts of the world as possible: Asia (inclusive of the Middle East, South & Southeast Asia), Eurasia (Russia and former Soviet countries), Eastern and Western Europe, Africa (northern and sub-Saharan), as well as Latin America & Iberia. Nor is it surprising that IAS librarians are as diverse, multi-lingual, and international as the collections that they curate. Only two of IAS’ current eight members were born in the US. All the rest moved from their home countries to work here at Duke University Libraries. Regardless of their differences—ethnic, linguistic, or religious—they all serve as intermediaries between one culture and another. And they all share the unpleasant experience of dealing with border guards and customs agents, that is, the authorities who control the flow of goods and people into and out of a country and who are responsible for collecting government tariffs—the duties or taxes imposed on imported or exported goods and, before the abolition of the international slave trade, also on commodified human beings.
The French word for customs is douane—a variant on the Arabic word دیوان (dīwān), which likely came to Arabic from Persian/Farsi. This word is thought to have arrived in France via the Mediterranean island of Sicily (the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”), which at one point in time hosted a significant Arab population. Although the etymology of the mellifluous-sounding French word hints at a process of cross-cultural fertilization (Persian to Arabic to French via Italy), in practice, a customs house serves as an architectural embodiment of the process by which established, governmental authorities label and domesticate the “Other.” A douane, in other words, is a stark reminder of the fact that you are crossing a demarcated border and entering a foreign country, a land where you do not really belong and where you are the unwelcome stranger.
Anyone who has ever travelled internationally knows that every time you enter a foreign country, you have to engage in certain social conventions: show a valid passport and (entry) visa, then explain why you are entering, why you left, where you went, and for how long. Even if you are just a librarian returning from an international book-buying trip or book fair, you are bound to be stopped at the border: “Welcome to the US, Mr. Swanick: Have you ever been to Yemen? When was the last time you visited Syria? And what was the purpose of your visit?” Or else: “I don’t recognize this visa, please come with me”—a phrase that sends chills up and down a global traveler’s spine, no matter which country’s customs agent pronounces it. International borders, like the customs houses and checkpoints built alongside them, affirm your identity and nationality, whether you like it or not. They are meant to exclude the “Other,” to limit diversity, and to demonstrate your inequality vis-à-vis the natives of the country you are visiting. They are, in a word, the polar opposite of the global perspective cultivated by IAS.
As the international border-crossing experience painfully demonstrates, the world and its inhabitants could stand with a little less “othering” and a lot more diversity. But what does “being” diverse mean for the international and area studies specialists of Duke University Libraries? Over the course of the next several months, a series of blog posts by different members of IAS will attempt to examine how our work as builders and curators of the library’s international collections contributes to the on-going, campus-wide conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion. We hope you will read our entries in the spirit in which they were intended and contact us if you have any comments, criticisms, or (we hope) compliments.
News, Events, and Exhibits from Duke University Libraries