Tavleen Kaur, 2017 Public Fellow

Visual Studies PhD student Tavleen Kaur worked with the Santa Ana Public Library (SAPL) as part of the Humanities Out There Public Fellows Program in 2017.

I worked on locating people to interview for the library’s project on documenting stories of migration. Since I’ve researched and read migration and immigration stories before, I feel I was able to understand why this project is important and its necessity in the contemporary political and social environment. I helped the SAPL’s “Teen Historians” prepare questions to ask our interviewees, discuss the Teen Historians’ own migration histories, and contextualize all of this with immigration history of the US.

Initially, I figured that the wide parameter of the project (i.e. anyone who is a migrant) would mean we could easily locate lots of people to interview. Once I got to contacting people, however, so many people politely declined the invite, noting that they did not feel comfortable being video recorded, felt that their stories were not remarkable enough to be documented, or were willing to be interviewed but our schedules did not align. So, even with the wide parameters, it was difficult to find people to interview. Even so, we were able to find folks who accepted our invite. Once we had people lined up to interview, I helped the Teen Historians prepare questions to ask the interviewees and worked together with them to set up the video recording. It was great to see everything come together like that. Everyone has a story to tell about their lives, and it was humbling to be part of the experience of documenting bits and pieces of people’s stories.

I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. I love working with youth and engaging in community development and outreach programs. This opportunity helped me understand that I can use the skills I’ve acquired from my PhD into youth and community development work, and that is a line of work I’m excited to pursue after my PhD.

The Humanities Out There Public Fellows Program gives humanities graduate students the opportunity to intern with local cultural organizations. Public Fellows apply and expand their humanities research, writing and analytical capacities—skills developed in a PhD program—in a non-profit setting. The 2017 Public Fellows were supported by a grant from the Luce Foundation, as well as by donor and School of Humanities funds.