Ontological distance is the dehumanization that emerges from uninterrogated coloniality between colonized subjects and the oppressive systems. This distancing has occurred in the histories of U.S. teachers both domestic-based and abroad, especially in Southeast Asia. In Steinbock-Pratt’s (2019) historiography on the relationships between early 1900s U.S. teachers and their Filipinx students, ontological distance was “The crux of the colonial relationship was intimacy marked by closeness without understanding, suasion backed by violence, and affection bounded by white and American supremacy” (Steinbock-Pratt, 2019, p. 214). This dehumanizing psychological or ontological distance existed during U.S. colonial regimes abroad, specifically in Southeast Asia and continues on in some ways. By combining a critical analysis of journal entries from archives of the U.S. Thomasite teachers with restorying the weaponized objects these teachers brought back with them, from the Burke Museum’s Southeast Asia collections at the University of Washington, I use creative writing to disrupt the dehumanized narratives of Filipinx students from the 1900-1950s. Using tenets of Asian Critical Race Theory, I enact (re)constructive history and counter-storytelling to rethink former U.S. teachers’ exotifications of Filipinx peoples and lands. This dialogue hopes to contribute to decolonizing archival work, expanding processes of identity development, and modeling ways in which museum collections and archival work can intersect with Ethnic Studies education, creative writing, and teacher education.
"An Imaginary* Interview with a Philippines Collections Museum Donor,"
Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement: Vol. 17
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jsaaea/vol17/iss1/6
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