Assembling Queer Displacement Archive (AQDA)

A digital archive of LGBTIQ+ oral histories about forced migration

The AQDA is a PhD research project that will establish a first in the world digital archive about LGBTIQA+ displacement. It will preserve and present oral histories in an innovative way. The archive planned will be an open-access archive. The website interface design will be open access too so that other collections or institutions that have oral histories can replicate this method to represent their collections.

With this research I will start preserving stories of LGBTIQ culturally linguistically diverse people who were compelled to leave their countries because of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, intersexism, discrimination, and persecution. This research will establish the world’s first open digital archive of LGBTIQ stories of forced migration.

Background

Despite being a known phenomenon, there is no reliable global data on LGBTIQA+ forced displacement. Up until 2021 United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) did not disaggregate data on displacement on the basis of gender; there is no data collection on sexuality of displaced people. Countries accepting refugees do not collect data on how many LGBTIQA+ people have been granted asylum. Such invisibility contributes to the construction of single narratives about who can be a refugee, assigning ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ to all refugees and what the drivers of displacement are, assuming that all refugees are fleeing war conflict only. This invisibility in data and refugee narratives flows into the spaces of cultural memory. 

Methodology and Significance

The significance of this archive is in its methodology: 

  1. How oral histories are collected

Often, in refugee spaces, we can witness a demand from an audience to hear a testimony from an LGBTIQA+ displaced person about their oppression and violence they experienced in detail. This demand is justified by a need to educate the dominant group yet seldom achieves this purpose. Such demand constitutes epistemic exploitation that may harm and result in the re-traumatisation of a narrator. I developed the methodology where a narrator has the freedom to choose what they want to talk about and to what extent. This is important to counter the hegemony of refugee narratives where refugees are simply expected to perform their refugee identities and tell their stories of persecution in intelligible ways for the (white) audience. After the interview for this archive, narrators can review the interview before it will be uploaded to the archive on the internet. They have a right to request deletion of some of the parts of the interview, they can change their voice and use a pseudonym. This archive will preserve the history of oppression of the LGBTIQA+ community who found safety around the world. This archive is about the refusal of our community to be erased. This will be a significant repository of raw data about this underrepresented community, created by them.

  1. How oral histories will be presented via the web archive

At present, there are no archives that are dedicated to the preservation of LGBTIQA+ displacement and are led by the people with this lived experience.[1] Existing digital archives are also often not designed to ensure that web content is accessible to people with disabilities or those with other age-related impairments.

The significance of this work is in its design. When one is using the search engine in an archive, it presents them with a rectangular search box where they need to type their request. It is a prerequisite that one knows how to navigate archives. It is common that available interviews and subjects are hidden or listed in endless lists that makes an exploration and discovery a difficult task. The long hours of interviews often are not searchable by keywords. This makes it impossible to only view relevant to the query thematic parts. The contextual information about the interview is often absent and this means the context in which the interview was taken or researcher’s positionality (that inevitable had an impact) is erased.  

With the AQDA web design, a user will be welcomed with a generous interface and clear representation of everything they can find in the archival records. They can use an interactive geographical map to explore from which countries people fled and where they found safety. This archive will allow researchers to cite the interviews and explore interviews including through listening to relevant segments from recordings according to their research interests. This will be a proof of concept that an archive can represent its collection through a user-friendly design for archives. Implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in the design from the beginning to ensure the accessibility of this archive not only for people with disabilities but as a rule and a best practice.

Impact and engagement

  1. The use of raw data (oral histories): I have been already contacted by multiple both academic and non-academic institutions requesting the access to the raw data. This included the University of California, Utrecht University, Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs and State Library of NSW.  Before completion this archive has already proved that access to such archive is in high demand as no other similar projects exist. Use of this raw data will result in broad range of publications from LGBTIQA+ media platforms to academic research and the use of this archive in addressing information policy needs.
  2. Replication of the web design model: This web design can be a good practice on how to organise website for oral history collections that can be replicated in similar projects or by other cultural institutions.
  3. In addition, there is an immense value in having these histories recorded and preserved as this helps with the visibility of LGBTIQA+ forcibly displaced people and thus advancing advocacy actions on their safety and inclusion. 

For more information download an information sheet with more details about the project. You can also download a poster about the research.

The ethical aspects of this research have been approved by the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee (Protocol 2019/125).

Call for participants

Very often stories of LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers are excluded and silenced from current conversations and historical records. I want to change this and save history of our LGBTIQ community. I myself arrived to Australia as an LGBTIQ refugee and now I am working to develop an online archive that will collect and preserve LGBTIQ stories of forced migration.  

Would you like your story to make a history? 

I am looking for LGBTIQ people who were forcibly displaced from their countries of origin to share their stories.

Potential participants need to:

–  Self-identify yourself as LGBTIQ person;

–  You are 18 years old;

–  Having had a lived experience of migration from a non-Western country or a lived experience of seeking asylum on the grounds of being persecuted because of sexual orientation and\or gender identity.

Interviews can be done via audio, video or audio with a voice distortion. Your safety will be a priority. You can choose what you tell. 

For more information, contact me at renee.dixson(at)anu.edu.au. Let’s meet.

Arabic version:

أبحث عن أشخاص من المثليين الذين أجبروا على المغادرة من بلدانهم الأصلية لمشاركة قصصهم. لماذا هذا مهم؟ هذه المجموعة من التاريخ الشفهي فريدة من نوعها لأنها ستصدر التجربة الحية لأشخاص من ال LGBTIQ ( مثلي الجنس متحولين جنسيا ثنائي الجنس ) الذين هاجروا أو نزحوا. ستكون هذه أول مجموعة من تاريخ العالم الشفوي للمهاجرين من LGBTIQ ( مثلي الجنس متحولين جنسيا ثنائي الجنس ) واللاجئين وطالبي اللجوء ، وهي مجموعة يتحدثون فيها عن أنفسهم. في الواقع ، لم يتم توثيق ظاهرة هجرة المثليين أو النزوح القسري بشكل كاف. سيكون هذا الأرشيف مفيدًا لمجتمع LGBTIQ ( مثلي الجنس متحولين جنسيا ثنائي الجنس )، في البحث المستقبلي. يمكن إجراء المقابلة باللغات الإنجليزية أو الأوكرانية أو الروسية.
لمزيد من المعلومات ، اتصل بي على renee.dixson[at]anu.edu.au أو عبر . فلنلتقي.

Russian version:

Я ищу представителей ЛГБТИК сообщества которые были вынуждены покинуть свои страны из-за преследования или отсутствия возможностей по признаку сексуальной ориентации, гендерной идентичности или интерсекс статуса для сбора их личный историй. Истории будут использованы для цифрового архива.

Почему это важно? 
Эта коллекция устных историй уникальна так как она ставит в приоритет рассказать жизненные истории ЛГБТИК людей которые были вынуждены покинуть свои страны. Она будет первой в мире где такие истории рассказаны темы кто их пережил. На самом деле, феномен ЛГБТИК миграции и беженства до сих пор остается недостаточно исследованным. Этот архив будет полезным для всего ЛГБТИК сообщества, а также для будущих исследований. 

Кого я ищу?

– представителей ЛГБТИК сообщества которые старше 18 и являются мигрантами, беженцами (которые уже получили этот статус) или тех, кто еще в процессе поиска убежища и кто проживает в другой стране от места рождения и/или гражданства. 

Для более подробной информации отслеживайте новости на моем сайте http://reneedixson.com.au/research/. Если вы заинтересованы в участии или знаете кого-либо кто был бы заинтересован пишите мне на электронную почту renee.dixson[at]anu.edu.au. Давай встретимся! Истории могут быть записаны на английском, русском или украинском языках. Уровень владения языком не имеет значения.



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