Luce-SEA in UW Libraries

Introduction to Luce-SEA in UW Libraries

Luce-SEA’s theme of comparative authoritarianism and its project of bridging SE Asian Studies and SE Asian American studies intersect in the research archive. Archival collecting and access are not ethically neutral practices. Rather, they may reflect and perpetuate inequality. Influenced by social justice movements, Critical Archival Studies questions the power differentials assumed in archival collecting and access, and centers curatorial responsibilities in communities who may re-interpret, re-define and use materials for community-based public memory projects. In this vein, Luce-SEA aims to pioneer archive-based research, art, and community-driven histories, with a focus on ethical methodologies addressing both the silences and multiplicity of voices in collections.

Three major Luce-funded projects at UW Libraries include a professional Southeast Asia librarian training position, an archives fellows program, and a series of critical archival workshops. Details on these are below. You may also explore the Luce-SEA research themes and collections here.

In February 2021, Judith Henchy, head of the UW Libraries’ Southeast Asia section, led a panel discussion showcasing UW’s collections focusing on Southeast Asia. The discussion served to raise awareness about UW’s archives for community members interested in engaging with them, and to promote our archival fellowships and librarianship training position.

Luce-SEA Projects with UW Libraries

Professional Southeast Asia librarian training position

This fully-funded, two-year position provides one graduate student in any discipline with a focus on Southeast Asia the opportunity to pursue an MLIS professional library degree at the University of Washington Information School. The trainee will also work half-time as a research assistant at the University of Washington Libraries, which houses one of the country’s premier Southeast Asia collections, while completing their MLIS.

Critical archival workshops

The UW Luce-SEA team will host three archival workshops, in Phnom Penh, Seattle, and Manilla. The goal is to support a network of scholars, artists, and archivists working on public memory, documentation, and reconciliation projects in Southeast Asia. The first workshop was held in Phnom Penh in June 2022 and included presentations from archivists and librarians, artists and documentarians, and researchers. View our Projects and Partners Page to learn more about our collaborators.

Archives fellows at UW libraries

The Luce-SEA Archives Fellows Program hosted two scholars in spring 2022, who conducted research in The Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909 Collection (Caroline Baicy) and The Tristuti Collection of wayang manuscripts from New Order Indonesia (Dimas Romadhon). Please learn more about their projects through the following abstracts and videos.

Scattered Archives: The Philippine Exhibit and Igorrote Village at AYPE, 1909
Caroline Baicy

Colonel John H. Wholley, Commander, First Washington Volunteer Infantry, Philippines, 1899

Between June 1 and October 16, 1909, Seattle held the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (known as AYPE). Initially meant to display the economic potential of Alaska and the Yukon in the initial plan, it was expanded to include Seattle’s centrality in trade over the Pacific and its proximity to America’s colonies in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. In its inclusion of the Pacific, AYPE became a space where the Philippines and its people, more specifically ethno-linguistic groups from what is now the Cordillera Administrative Region, were put on display through the federal government and private enterprise. While scholars such as Robert Rydell, Matthew Klingle, and John Putman have discussed the planning and vision of the AYPE, the purpose of this presentation will focus on the process of remembering and imagining the Philippine Exhibit and the Igorrote Village. It will consider how the scattered nature of the archival material on the Philippine Exhibit and the Igorrote Village allows for a multivalent process of remembering the AYPE.


Wayang and revolusi: Tristuti Rachmadi’s shadow play manuscripts at the University of Washington
Dimas Romadhon

In the middle of the global Cold War, Javanese shadow play (wayang) became a strategic medium to promulgate various contesting ideologies in Indonesia. Between 1959 to 1965, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and its cultural front, Lekra, sought to modernize wayang performance, to release it from its feudal values, and to use it as a means of revolution. Pioneer to this effort was Tristuti Rachmadi (1939-2009). Tristuti was a prominent shadow master (dalang) who won the national dalang competition and was known for his affiliation with Lekra. During the political chaos in 1965, he was arrested and later exiled to Buru until 1979. After his release, he was not allowed to perform for another 20 years, which makes his names unknown among contemporary wayang audience. During his prohibition from performing, Tristuti wrote hundreds of wayang scripts for other dalang. His manuscripts circulated discreetly and anonymously among dalang communities and continued to shape the wayang storytelling style in Surakarta until nowadays. This presentation suggests that Tristuti Rachmadi’s manuscript collection, currently stored at the University of Washington, provides an important trajectory to understand what happened to the traditional performing arts during the occurrence of Cold War scenes in Indonesia and, potentially, the possible confluence of communism and the Javanese values.