What is Desis of Silicon Valley Speak?
The King Library at San José State University has developed an Oral History archive to curate the stories of Indians or Desis in Silicon Valley. Although the term "Desi" is often used for the larger South Asian community, in our case the term refers specifically to people from India or of Indian origin. As the library records the stories, members of the community will get the opportunity to reflect on their lives in Silicon Valley.
It is well known that Silicon Valley is inhabited by very high numbers of Indians and people of Indian origin. From the software engineering sector to education to medical professions to service professions such as gas station owners, taxi drivers, restaurant owners, and grocery store owners and their employees, Indians from different parts of India call Silicon Valley home. Census, housing, and salary data reveal a dynamic and complex ethnographic story that few other locations in the world can claim.
What have been the unique experiences of Indians in Silicon Valley? How have they embraced Silicon Valley and how has Silicon Valley returned the favor? What stories do Silicon Valley’s Indians want others to know, including forthcoming generations? What makes Silicon Valley "home" for so many Indians, beyond the glitter of high-tech jobs, exorbitant house prices, seemingly limitless affluence, and gorgeous weather all year round? How are Desis of Silicon Valley different from other Desis in the USA? How have the Desis influenced Silicon Valley culture?
The Oral History project will provide rich primary source material for researchers, scholars, historians, policy makers, and students on how a region of the Global South has contributed to and been shaped by Silicon Valley, which has itself been redefined by the skilled and talented from Indian shores.
The recorded interviews will become available for public use for research purposes through the online Oral History Collections portal. Participants will be asked to sign a consent form around the time of recording in order to understand the terms of the interview. Participants will transfer all rights, permissions, and interest to the interviews for use of the content for future scholarship.
A Central RSCA (Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities) Grant from San Jose State University helped begin the Desis of Silicon Valley Speak: An Oral History. We hired two students who helped with transcribing and developed the public-facing landing page of the project.
Initial conversations with Library Administration and the Faculty Director of AAACNA (Africana, Asian American, Chicano, & Native American Studies Center) helped in designing the project. Advice from the Faculty Director of Special Collections and Archives continues to guide the development of the project. Bernd Becker, the Faculty Director of Reference and User Services, helped in the drafting of the RSCA grant proposal. He recorded the first few interviews on location in 2019 when in-person meetings were still possible and made them digitally accessible. He also developed the technical guide for students to work with the videos and transcripts. Librarians Ann Agee and Jane Dodge stepped in to complete transcribing work for the five inaugural videos.
The technical development of and access to the Oral History collection would not be possible without the meticulous attention of and constant support of
- Jessie Cai, Discovery and Web Development Analyst
- Laurel Eby, Web Services Librarian
- Lyna Nguyen, Website and Applications Administrator
Finally, we thank the interviewees for their time and willingness to share their journeys in Silicon Valley.