Currently, I am building an online, open-access digital archive of my street photography in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, which I name as Rethinking South Asia via Critical Digital Archiving (RSA-CDA). Through this project I am studying theories and praxes of digital archiving through decolonial and depatriarchal lenses. This archive is an attempt to showcase political, ethical, philosophical, and aesthetic journeys that push toward decolonizing and depatriarchalizing the archives, digital archives, digitalism, and meaning-making performances. The goal is to offer multidimensional narratives of Nepal and South Asia, to challenge existing digital representations of Nepal, to inspire a rethinking of Nepal and South Asia differently and pluralistically, and to provoke audiences to imagine and think beyond my own archival presentations. RSA-CDA is performed via two intersecting levels --building a digital archive of my street photography and documenting-theorizing the process of building this archive as endlessly as possible to showcase the impossibility of building an ‘organic’ (digital) archive.
My desire to build and theorize RSA-CDA is triggered, especially, by an insistence on theorizing and resisting stereotypes regarding South Asia, Nepal, and “third” world countries that became even more visible and prominent after I moved to the US in 2017 for my PhD. In the US, I encountered multiple episodes of either people not knowing where I am from, or concluding things about me in an absolute manner before even waiting to know me, or being surprised when I did not meet the stereotypes that mainstream discourses have constructed about the people and place I come from.
As this is a participatory, community-driven project aimed to make interventions in digital representations of non-Western countries, one of the integral part of the process of building this archive is understanding the value of UX. Right now, I am regularly conducting user-experience (UX) testing of my digital archive with different non/academic non/Nepali audiences with the help of Dr. Laura Gonzales. The prototype of RSA-CDA was presented in Nepal in CASSA Annual Conference on Asian Studies in October 2018 for the first round of feedback and recommendation. The second round of UX testing was done with researchers and mentors at the Multilingual UX Research Center at UTEP in February 2019. The third round will be done with South Asian Studies and Nepali Studies scholars when I visit Nepal in the summer of 2019. After conducting UX tests, I will do another round of the street photography in Kathmandu Valley in collaboration with the researchers there. The purpose of these regular UX testing is multifaceted: choosing banner images; writing homepage text; deciding themes for exhibitions; experimenting with the nature of metadata; and most importantly, to build it together. And this team of Women of Color in Computing project has actually been the most significant part of making this RSA-CDA possible.
A little bit more about me
I am also a researcher and Honorary Overseas Digital Humanities Consultant at Center for Advanced Studies in South Asia (CASSA) and South Asian Foundation for Academic Research (SAFAR). Since 2013, with the supervision of academics of the Institute of Advanced Communication, Education, and Research (IACER), Columbia University, and Princeton University, I am engaged in South Asian Studies: New Regionalism project. The study is a cutting-edge critique of the regionalism and the area studies with the team-work of frontline academics of global significance. I am also a faculty at IACER, Pokhara University since 2013. And my areas of teaching are Literary/Critical Theory, Critical Cultural Studies, South Asian Studies, Nepal Studies, and Postcolonial Studies.