We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012. Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week. All of these amazing resources are available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!
Kitab Dala’il al-Khairat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salah ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar [Guidebook of Benefits and Illuminations of Prayers to the Chosen Prophet]. The Dala’il al-Khairat of al-Jazuli (Al-Jazuli, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Sulaymana, d. 1465) is one of the most popular devotional works in Islam, comprising a cycle of prayers to the prophet Muhammad. The manuscript now at Duke is Arabic written in the Maghrebi script, and likely was created in North Africa in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. The manuscript also contains other prayers and devotional texts. Its calligraphy and ornamentation are beautiful witnesses to a text of surpassing importance in the Muslim faith.
National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records: This organization is dedicated to furthering the civil and international human rights of the Haitian community in the US and helping influence US policy over Haiti to support human rights. In over 146 linear feet of material, the records document the activity of the Coalition from 1981 to 2003. This adds to a growing collection of material in the Human Rights Archive related to human rights in Haiti; see the Human Rights Archive’s LibGuide for more information on other collections related to human rights in Latin America.
We recently completed processing the Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) Records. Formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), AIJ is a not-for profit legal organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including those being held at various detention centers, such as Guantanamo, Krome and Turner Guilford Knight. The majority of the material in this collection deals with the Haitian refugee population in Florida. Two aspects of this collection struck me. First, while this collection contains material that addresses the Haitian refugee crises from a broader political and historical perspective, it is notable for the quantity of material it contains that focuses on the stories and testimonies of individual refugees, in their own words, in documents such as affidavits and correspondence.
The second aspect of this collection that struck me as particularly interesting is the amount of material it contains on children – child refugees and detainees, children seeking asylum, children stranded in Haiti, and especially unaccompanied minors. As I became more familiar with this collection, I became especially interested in the detained child as both a fact and an idea. Sifting through accounts both by and about children of their emotional, mental, and physical experiences in detention, I began to wonder how the search for asylum and subsequent detention is conceived of by children.
The reason why this subject fascinated me is because of the strong incongruity in the idea of the child, on the one hand, and the idea of imprisonment of any kind, on the other, an incongruity that suggested to me that accounts of children in detention might uniquely illuminate how we think about detention and refuge. We often associate children with places of refuge, with a powerful need for and unique faculty to find or construct places of refuge. One example of this faculty is play. As I looked through photographs of and read testimony by children detained at Guantanamo, I began to wonder what place “play” has in detention, in homelessness, and in lack of refuge.
The subset of documents about which I am writing are dated from around the early and mid-1990s, during and following the campaign of terror against Aristide supporters. One must bear in mind that the majority of Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo at this time were forcibly returned to Haiti where their lives were imperiled (5,000 Aristide supporters were estimated to be killed in 1993). In fact, many of the children detained at Guantanamo were unaccompanied for precisely this reason – their parents or caretakers had been killed in Haiti during this period. As the AIJ Records reveal, many of these children, upon repatriation, were thus compelled to eke out a living on the streets.
So, how does the child reconfigure the way we conceive of detention? Three photographs from the Photographic Materials Series caught my attention. After I selected them, I asked myself why I had been drawn to them, and I realized that in each, a child or children were holding some kind of object – a fish, makeshift drums, a guitar.
I considered these photographs against the written testimony about and by children detained at Guantanamo (information packets, emergency action requests related to medical conditions, correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.). The written documentation described abuses, including rape, that were committed at Guantanamo against women and children. Child detainees, not surprisingly, wrote of their desperation and depression (their own words), and observers of these children offered similar accounts. Yet, these children not only subsist at Guantanamo but also, as the photographs above communicate, find ways to play. It is not difficult to perceive a form of resistance in their play, in their insistence upon occupying places that we cannot envision as inhabitable. I was likewise captivated by the photographs in which children are holding objects because they seem to me to manifest the construction of places of refuge within displacement and dispossession. The subjects in these photographs seek asylum in the objects themselves. There is something about gripping an object, possessing that object, that also solidifies the reality of oneself – and this in a place in which that very reality is relentlessly objected to – in abuse, obscurity, neglect, remaining unheard.
Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
The personal and professional papers of writer, organizer, and leading women’s movement activist Meredith Tax came to the Sallie Bingham Center in 2010. To celebrate the acquisition of this extensive collection the Center will host a symposium in Tax’s honor on April 13 and 14 called Acting Across Borders: The Future of the Feminist 1970s. Along with Meredith Tax, distinguished African scholar and activist Patricia McFadden will present the keynote address of an event that aims to grapple with how the interventions and methodologies of the women’s liberation movement inform current and future social justice movements. In anticipation of her trip to Duke, Meredith took a few minutes to share her reasons for putting her papers here and to give a sense of what people can expect to learn at the symposium.
Why did you decide to put your papers in the Bingham Center?
I investigated several feminist archives and chose the Bingham Center because it had a much more energetic and activist approach to archival work than I saw elsewhere. I want my papers to be used not only by scholars but by young people who want to learn from the history of earlier social movements. Because the Bingham Center does outreach to inform students about its collections and gives fellowships for researchers to work in its archive, I think my papers will be most accessible there.
What would you tell students about the upcoming symposium celebrating your work?
We are at the dawn of a period of increasing political activism. Attendees at this symposium will learn from the life stories of people who shaped the women’s movement here and internationally. Speakers will talk about their own work and life experiences. They will discuss the way issues of race and class impacted the relationship between feminism and the left, the development of ecofeminism and international women’s movements, and the centrality of questions of sexuality, gender, and LGBT rights. Feminists from Southern Africa, Algeria, and India will discuss their own rich and complex confrontations with sexism, nationalism and religious fundamentalism. These stories will show that, contrary to the right wing myth that feminists are white middle class women who are just out for themselves, feminists in the US and elsewhere have always grappled with issues of race and class, war and peace, nationalism and the environment, and that these efforts continue from one generation to the next.
What are some of the topics you plan to address in your keynote speech at the symposium?
I will tell the story of my life, from a childhood shaped by the sexism of the 50s to the early days of the Boston women’s movement, battles within the left and my own struggle to overcome the ignorance resulting from class and race privilege, my participation in the reproductive rights movement, and my work in International PEN (Postsecondary Education Network International) as part of a global movement for women’s human rights which must go on in this new period to link the struggle for social and economic justice and sustainability with the fight against all forms of fundamentalism.
Marshall Meyer was an activist rabbi who expounded a politically engaged Conservative Judaism. After being ordained rabbi in 1958, Meyer and his wife moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1959, where they were to stay until 1984. Meyer led the reinvigoration of Argentina’s Jewish community and lived and fought through the political upheavals and turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, openly speaking out against the human rights abuses perpetrated under the rule of the military junta, and visiting and attempting to secure the release of prisoners who were unlawfully incarcerated. After the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, Argentine President Raul Alfonsin recruited Meyer to serve on the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP in Spanish), which led a national investigation to establish the extent of the abuses suffered under the military junta.
Meyer returned to the United States in 1984 and took over the helm of congregation B’nai Jeshurun, reviving the decaying New York City synagogue and transforming it into a dynamic center for Judaism in the United States. Meyer advocated for inter-religious dialogue and peace efforts, the plight of marginalized groups within the United States, against human rights abuses in Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala), and for peace and respect for human rights in Israel and Palestine.
The items in the Marshall Meyer digital collection focus on his work in Argentina on behalf of human rights. Approximately 6 linear feet of paper documents were digitized and individually cataloged. The digital collection contains 1,025 items including correspondence, project files, subject files, publications, and other documents. The web portal allows researchers to access individual documents via subject, document type, date, language, and titles. Future enhancements to the collection will include addition of archival descriptions and access and the addition of a/v material.