Negative Space: An Asian & Asian American Oral History Project aims to create a more nuanced portrait of Asian American identity by collecting the voices of students, faculty, and staff at Yale who identify as Asian or Asian American. Our goal is to celebrate the heterogeneity of all those who consider themselves to be Asian or Asian American and, in so doing, to encourage a broader and more inclusive view of the kinds of narratives encompassed by that label.
Haewon Ma and Oriana Tang began the project in November of 2016. In October, Haewon and Oriana had worked together on a cover piece for the Yale Herald (as graphics editor/writer and managing editor, respectively). Haewon had envisioned writing a piece that synthesized Asian American identity and its place in the Cultural Connections pre-orientation program. As she began to interview students, however, she found that the interviewees' stories were so diverse that to draw quotes from any of them in service of a traditional article would flatten and misrespresent them. After running the piece as a spread of quotations, Haewon and Oriana decided that the experience suggested the potential of an oral history project centered around Asian American identity. Ananya, Sarah, and Tien joined the project as interviewers beginning in fall of 2017.
In the spring of 2019, Haewon, Oriana, and Tien graduated, leaving Ananya and Sarah to continue the project. Negative Space elected a larger board of students, including Miho, Isabella and Joyce. An additional group of more than ten students now transcribes and supports Negative Space’s mission. Now, they look to expand and develop the project that Oriana and Haewon envisioned just a few years ago.
By conducting oral history interviews, we hope to embody Lisa Lowe's vision of the heterogeneity of Asian American identity and offer students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to tell their stories without compressing them into sound-bites. We offer these interviews alongside artwork and writing of all kinds (academic, creative, published, unpublished, musical, visual, literary, multimedia) created by students who identify as Asian American. Our goal is not to require that interviews or creative submissions focus on the process of grappling with Asian American identity—though, needless to say, such grappling is always welcome—but rather to include as wide a variety of voices, speaking on as diverse a set of subjects and interests, as possible.
In this project, "Asian American" is a product of self-definition. Asia is expansive and complex. Anyone who identifies with the labels "Asian" or "Asian American" is welcome to submit artwork, request an interview, or both. (At this time, we only have the resources to accommodate members of the Yale University community.) If you are interested in working with us in any capacity, please contact us using the form under the "Contribute" tab.
This project was previously named "Stories from the Silent Minority." We have changed our name in an effort to avoid characterizing the Asian American population as silent or silenced. Our new name, "Negative Space," was selected in response to the idea that Asia only exists in relation to the West. Asia, in other words, is the negative space left behind by the shape created by the West. With this project, we hope to deconstruct that dependent definition and begin filling the space on our own terms.
Consent & use of interviews
We collect interviews and artwork solely for the purposes of archiving them as a part of this project. We do not use any information gathered in these interviews for outside research. Our interviewees consent to their interviews on these terms and are allowed to withdraw any information at any time. If you would like to use any of the information on this website for your work, or if you would like to read our consent policy in greater detail, please contact us at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
For bios and past members, click here.
Ananya Kumar-Banerjee // Sarah Jho // Miho Carey // Isabella Li // Joyce Wu
Lillian Hua // Eileen Huang // Nathan Kim // Ivy Li // Helena Lyng-Olsen // Anna Tran // Minh Vu // Emily Xiao // Angela Yoo // Christina Hijiya // Anusha Manglik // Eun Ji Yoo // Kento Tanaka
Our thanks to the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media, formerly the Digital Media Center for the Arts; the Council of Heads of College; and the Asian American Cultural Center for facilities, resources, and funding; and to Professor Quan Tran for advising this project.
Cover graphics Spring 2017 to Spring 2018 by Haewon Ma
Cover graphics Fall 2018 by Haewon Ma & Joyce Wu
Website managed Spring 2017 to Fall 2018 by Oriana Tang