In the face of Chinese exclusion and Victorian-era morality, this project presents a family photo album as a counter-narrative to racialized and gendered immigration policies. The photo album is from the Chong family who were part of a Chinese American community living in San Francisco around 1915. The paper follows the fluctuating and non-chronological layout of the album and the uncertainties within to analyze Chinese Americans family formations in the context of state control of Asian migrants, including hyper-policing and surveillance around immigration status, queerness, and class. The Chong family album demonstrates how Chinese Americans employed flexible definitions of family to create hybridized national identities, circumvent restrictive immigration practices, and conceal criminalized existences. By employing the notion of blurriness in the archive, this paper charts the emergence of non-biological forms of family, drawing relations between paper families and queer ancestries. I hope to present an alternate method for scholars to engage with archives that can restore agency to marginalized communities. Through speculation and reading the absences of archives, this paper presents a way to bridge history with current experiences, allowing for community healing and contextualizing modern intersections of migration, kinship, and queerness.
Battles, Sam, "Paper Sons and Chosen Families: Blurry Archives and Non-Biological Kinship in the Chong Family Album" (2022). Kaplan Senior Essay Prize for Use of Library Special Collections. 25.
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