Conferences & Symposia

The Stories We Tell and the Objects We Keep

Asian American Women and the Archives

The stories of Asian American women extend far beyond the geographic borders of the United States. Inspired by tales and objects from family history, their narratives often reflect the transnational nature of Asian American women’s lives.

Despite the importance of these narratives to expanding and complicating our understanding of war, migration, inequity, and difference, the accounts and perspectives of Asian American women have often been overlooked in formal records, and the tangible objects providing critical evidence of their histories have been ignored.

This half-day program will bring together Asian American activists and artists, including novelists, filmmakers, playwrights, and photographers, to share the stories that inspire their craft and the objects they retain as part of their personal histories.

“The Stories We Tell and the Objects We Keep” reflects the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to revealing complete, balanced, and diverse histories of women in America.

Free and open to the public.

Please register and join us.


1–1:10 PM

Welcoming Remarks

Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

1:10–1:15 PM

Student Reading or Viewing of Student Videos

1:15–2:45 PM

Session 1: Reimagining Our Stories (Roundtable Discussion)

This roundtable discussion will explore what it means to record and create stories beyond the limits of a national narrative, incorporating experiences across cultures and continents. Each of the panelists will consider their multiple affiliations and the perspectives and the knowledge they have gained as a result.

Tanzila (Taz) Ahmed, activist, storyteller, podcaster, and poet; campaign strategist,

Gina Apostol, novelist; author, Insurrecto (Soho Press, 2018)

Hồng-An Trương, photographer and sound, video, and performance artist; associate professor of art and art history, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Moderated by Ju Yon Kim, professor of English in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

2:45–3 PM


3–3:05 PM

Student Reading or Viewing of Student Videos

3:05–4:35 PM

Session 2: Preserving Our Stories (Roundtable Discussion)

History is revealed not only through formal written records, but also in the preservation of tangible objects that illustrate personal and family stories. Speakers in this session will show and discuss a selection of the materials they keep to tell their stories while underscoring the importance of collecting such objects to preserve the history of Asian American women.

Tanaïs (Tanwi Nandini Islam), novelist and perfumer; author, Bright Lines (Penguin Books, 2015)

An-My Lê, photographer; professor of photography, Bard College

Renee Tajima-Peña, professor in the Asian American Studies Department, UCLA

Moderated by Denise Khor, visiting scholar in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University; assistant professor of American studies in the College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston

4:35–4:45 PM

Closing Remarks

Helen Zia, journalist; former executive editor, Ms.