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In/visible Labor

in Chinatown

“In/visible Labor in Chinatown” is a multi-media and place-based project that would honor the current and past labor stories of Chinese immigrant workers in New York City’s Chinatown. What anchors the project is my great grandfather, grandfather and parent’s migration and labor story. They all faced the same challenges that many other immigrant and communities of color face. The very racist and xenophobic 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act only allowed for a few hundred male merchants to come to the U.S. My family’s story is not unique but is a first hand testimonial of the history of this racial discrimination.

“In/visible Labor in Chinatown” will integrate different new media platforms augmented reality, QR codes, 360 video and 3-D storytelling techniques to bring to life the labor stories of Chinese immigrants from the 1900’s to today. Through a combination of research methods that include online and physical archives and libraries, participatory interviews, community based and oral history collection – I will construct audio, video and new media stories that will conjure up the stories of those who worked in the hand laundry, restaurant, and garment industries; operated small family businesses, as well as those who are part of the informal labor economy such as street vendors, peddlers and sex workers. These stories are often invisible and untold to a wider audience. This project would aim to bring visibility to the invisible labor that is the backbone of this community and the larger city.

The labor conditions of the most vulnerable immigrant groups, like the Chinese in the U.S. are so intimately tied with the (racist) history of U.S. immigration policies that favored European migrants over non-European. It wasn’t until 1965 when there was more of a high demand for a growing workforce that non-Europeans were systemically allowed into the U.S. with the Immigration Act passing. These immigration and labor policies are important aspects I will identify in this project. These would be woven into the people’s stories. This is all intimately tied to the Chinese American labor experience in the U.S.