Meet Maddie White, a 2020 Pollock Scholar and archivist who aspires to document and preserve the histories of underrepresented TCKs—the non-white, disabled, LGBTQIA+, non-Western, and others. “We are far more diverse than the stories told about us.”
Maddie White is an adult TCK who was born in the US and grew up in Fiji, Australia, Thailand, and South Africa, before returning to the US as a teen. She currently works at Smith College Special Collections as their Processing Archivist.
Maddie is particularly interested in documenting and preserving the histories of TCKs who are non-white, disabled, LGBTQIA+, and/or non-Western. She believes community archiving could help foster a sense of belonging in the TCK community, through storytelling and a connection to our history.
How did you hear about FIGT and what inspired you to apply for the Scholarship?
I'm pretty cut off from the expat world where I live in Massachusetts, so a few months ago, I was looking for a gathering or conference for TCKS/ATCKs. Of course I found FIGT in my search. When I was reading through the conference website, I found the Pollock Scholarship.
I had been thinking for a long time about how hard it is to get at the history of TCKs and how great it would be to have a community archive, so I decided to apply. I didn’t think I’d get the scholarship since I have ideas but no concrete project yet. But it sounded like such a great opportunity to meet people, to develop my ideas, and to listen to other folks’ ideas, I decided to apply anyway. I feel so lucky that I get the chance to come to the conference!
What are your areas of interest/expertise related to global mobility?
Right now, I am gathering information for a TCK history project. Ultimately, I'd like to collect and document the history of TCKs to create an archive. The history of TCK childhoods and adulthoods can give us a clearer understanding of who we are, our similarities and differences, and the changes to our community over time. It brings forward issues like mental health, lack of support from schools and colleges, racism, homophobia, and sexism.
Telling our history exactly as it happened and telling how we saw the world reveals the strengths and failures of our community and of our support, and allows underrepresented people a voice in the narrative.
By listening to marginalized TCKs and amplifying their voices, we can show marginalized and underrepresented A/TCKs that there are others like them who have come before, and who have survived, struggled, and succeeded. Listening to each other and sharing our histories can help build a sense of belonging that embraces our struggles, failures, successes and differences.
How did you get into this field? Why are you passionate about it/why is it important to you?
I am an archivist (someone who takes care of historical documents) at Smith College Special Collections.
When I was getting my master’s in library science, I focused on outreach to under-served communities. I asked: How do we collect and preserve the history of communities who have been largely ignored by archives in the past, and how do we make archives that continue to have a life in the community?
I created a project to document the history of LGBTQ2IA+ rural Wyoming by going out into rural communities to interview LGBT people about what they would want from an archive, what important parts of their history should be documented, and their concerns about donating their personal records to a public archive.
I would like to do a similar project for TCK history, but push it past information gathering and planning into actual collecting of historical material.
The project is important to me on a personal level, since I wish I knew an older generations of ATCKs who could tell me the history of our community. The history of TCKs is difficult to find at all, and when it does appear, it is often told by our parents, psychologists, and educators.
I want more than that. I want to know stories of our successes and failures in adulthood. I want to know stories similar to mine, and ones that go against my expectations. I want a history that includes more than the British Empire and US expansion. I want to learn from TCKs who are non-white, or disabled, or LGBTQIA+, or non-Western, or a combination of these identities.
We are far more diverse than the stories told about us.
What do you look forward to at FIGT2020 in Bangkok?
I'm really excited to be in a space dedicated to talking about the issues facing expats.
I'm also really hoping to connect to anyone who is already looking at the history and stories of TCKs/ATCKs, and to listen to the community about what they would want in an archives project. I am interested in doing an oral history project to collect the stories of TCKs, but I want to listen to the people and their needs/dreams first.
I know any archival project would need to be very accessible online so it could be reached anywhere in the world, would need to take the privacy and safety of current minor TCKs into account, and would need to include our schools/clubs/caretakers.
However, TCKs know what their own community needs better than anyone, so I also want to hear other concerns and ideas. I am especially interested in hearing ideas on how to have an archive reflect our true diversity and go out of its way to expand our understanding of what it looks like to be a TCK.
Besides the actual conference, I'm also very excited to explore my old neighborhood and school, since ISB was where I went to middle school.
Can you share a random piece of info about yourself please?
The most embarrassing TCK mistake I ever made was when I moved back to the US (my passport country) as a teen. I asked my teacher for a rubber (i.e., an eraser), but I didn't know that in the US a “rubber” is slang for a condom.
My teacher looked at me horrified, and I just rephrased the sentence and moved on with my day. It wasn't until a year later when I found out what rubber meant that it clicked and I finally realized why she had looked so horrified.
ALSO: Read Maddie’s full bio and learn about the other 2020 Scholars.
Every year, the David C. Pollock Scholarship brings new voices to the FIGT conference and it's kept alive with your support. If you will be at FIGT2020, we hope many of you will participate in the 2020 Lucky Draw!
We are also happily accepting donations such as books, coaching sessions, and workshops. The Lucky Draw provides a great platform for people to hear about your services and raises funds to continue the Pollock Scholar Legacy. Please contact Matilda Criel-Ewoldt, Scholarship Chair, for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org.