The Silenced and Silences: Representations in Ethnic Studies

Born out of student and faculty protests at San Francisco State University in 1968, the establishment of Ethnic Studies as a field has a long and protracted history in California and the United States more broadly. The field encompasses four academic disciplines that shed light on a history of colonization, racism, marginalization, and discrimination. Ethnic Studies courses across the California State University system will expand in the years to come to improve awareness and examine marginalized perspectives. This exhibition focuses on specific, carefully selected materials from the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature and the Special Collections Research Center and University Archives about African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Chicanx and Latinx Americans. The items you see displayed represent both the deep histories of racism and discrimination from the dominant Anglo-Western European-Judeo Christian-American culture as well as the responses of activism and education from marginalized Ethnic Studies communities.

Our exhibition also highlights that our collections are not neutral and contain inherent biases from the disciplines of Archival and Library Science and past practitioners. While the exhibit speaks to many different interventions into and about silenced groups, they are a small fraction of our holdings. Many archives and special collections do not represent the diversity of their campuses and communities, and we are no exception. Besides pointing out the biases of the past and present, we demonstrate the silences in both the archival record and published history.

We acknowledge these inequities and lack of representation as a starting point. We pledge to rectify the situation by making deliberate and concerted efforts to acquire, promote, and preserve materials and narratives related to marginalized communities. We also will work towards rectifying metadata and archival descriptions that make these materials difficult to access and find and we commit to enhancing our metadata and descriptions to amplify and respect voices from underrepresented peoples.


Special Collections Research Center in the Library of Fresno State