Entanglements

About This Project

The goal of Entanglements is to used place-based history not only to answer the question of how Asian Americans have historically been implicated in furthering colonial logics, reinforcing settler-colonial structures, and justifying dispossession of Native lands in the United States; but also the question of how we might generate new pathways toward further solidarity between Asian American communities and Indigenous nations.

Maps have historically been tools of the powerful and speak to their interests, whether conquest, resource extraction, or taxation. It is far rarer for maps to be expressions of protest. With this thought in mind, Entanglements is best described as a counter-mapping project. Counter-mapping is a practice of critical cartography that challenges dominant representations and evaluations of space. As a map that simultaneously renders an explicit critique of the settler colonial state and foregrounds Coast Salish and Asian American histories over dominant white colonial narratives, Entanglements offers several challenges to existing power relations in a manner meant to be legible to a public audience.

Doing place-based history by locating stories in their original landscapes facilitates identifying sites where stories from Coast Salish and Asian American communities most deeply intersect. As argued by historian Coll Thrush, place stories are “opportunities to think about the ways in which ‘Indigenous’ and ‘settler’ worlds ... are deeply and profoundly entangled by geography, ecology, the built environment, and vernacular, day-to-day life.” Doing place-based history, as indicated by Thrush, requires the researcher to engage with geography, ecology, and the built environment as well as developing a sense of historical place—the meanings that past and current residents have assigned to sites—in order to “read” the city as a historical text.

This project’s place-based approach follows Indigenous feminist methods in that it “involves reading against disappearance; it involves reading futures yet in store for Native lives.” Following Angie Morrill, the map combats dislocations—a motif shared by both Indigneous and Asian American communities— by mapping connections between places and peoples, and between peoples and cultures. After a story has been identified and investigated, its original spatial context will be located on the digital interactive map, where the story and place can be tied together.

A place-based approach to the research, writing, and mapping of the histories of Coast Salish and Asian American peoples in Seattle additionally enables us to challenge settler-colonial representations of space. Colonial tales of discovery and conquest, argues geographer Doreen Massey, are reflected and reinforced by stories and maps that portray space as an expanse we travel across. This way of imagining space, Massey warns, easily leads one to think about other peoples, places, and cultures as merely existing “‘on’ this surface.” If, she asks, we instead “conceive of a meeting-up of histories, what happens to our implicit imaginations of time and space?” The practice of writing and counter-mapping place-based stories that we propose as the central methodology in Entanglements does precisely this work of reimagining the map of Seattle not as a surface, but as a meeting space for different histories.

Entanglements was made possible by the generosity of the John and Mary Ann Mangels Endowed Fellowship and the Simpson Center for the Humanities' Mellon Summer Collaborative Fellowship. 

VIEW THE MAP

Anna Nguyen (she/her) is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Washington who specializes in Asian American history and Critical Refugee Studies. Her forthcoming dissertation is titled "Refugee Narratives and Resistance Nationalisms: The Development of Vietnamese Political Identity in the United States from the 1960s to 2000s." Find more information on her work here.

Madison Heslop (she/her) is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Washington who specializes in the history of the Salish Sea and Pacific Northwest. Find more of her work at madisonheslop.com.

Special thanks to our copyeditor, Lowell Wyse.