This article evaluates the role of oral history in the public memory of September 11, 2001, through a small cluster of interviews with Afghan Americans that form part of Columbia University's September 11, 2001, Oral History Narrative and Memory Project. The interviews, most of them with young, educated, and secular Afghan Americans whose families came to the United States after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, tell a different story of 9/11 than that of eyewitnesses and survivors at the World Trade Center. In addition to illuminating the impact of 9/11 on the everyday life of New Yorkers, the interviews reveal the backlash experienced by immigrants from Afghanistan (and from the Middle East and South Asia) and the transgenerational and transnational legacy of histories of violence, which manifest themselves in ordinary family stories and feelings. Moreover, this culturally literate, relatively assimilated group testifies to the challenges of making its perspectives on Afghanistan legible when they are solicited for public commentary. The article argues that these putatively minor and ordinary voices suggest the value of Columbia's 9/11 oral history archive in countering the hyperdocumentation and sensational representation of 9/11 in a range of genres.
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Ann Cvetkovich; Can the Diaspora Speak?: Afghan Americans and the 9/11 Oral History Archive. Radical History Review 1 September 2011; 2011 (111): 90–100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-1268722
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