I pursue creative response as part of a vernacular photography and culture documentation project with, the American Mohammedan Society (AMS) and Masjid in Brooklyn, New York. This book aims to shed light on the community through a narrative approach to ethnographic documentation and research. The AMS, which my Great Grandfather helped to establish in 1907, is the oldest Mosque in the United States and home to the Lipka Tatar community of New York City. I will explore how contemporary cultural and religious representations from within the Tatar community manage the gap between the vibrant AMS community of the first half of the 20th century, and the downturn of involvement in the AMS by community members from the second half of the 20th century to present day. I will rely on ethnographic and creative response techniques and methods employed and developed through my dissertation and first book, to discuss the communities narrative as uncovered through inter-generational dialogue and discussion by means of historical community photographs and memory. Documenting vernacular artifacts and creative responses to them within the AMS community, I ask: Why the Lipka Tatar community of Brooklyn, NY has faded, while its cultural, religious, and community center remains in tact? What, exactly, did it mean to be, a first or second-generation Muslim European immigrant living in NYC? Why is there a modern day resurgence of interest from descendants of the AMS, in their cultural and community roots?
These questions resonate heavily in modern-day, post 9-11 America, where religious persecution of Islamic communities is more commonplace, and the public is aware of Islamic extremist groups, and terrorist attacks around the globe, for which they claim responsibility. While scholars have written about the modern day anti-Islamic climate on Muslim communities and individuals in the United States, I will explore, through an analysis of the AMS vernacular photography and artifact collection development and associated creative response process, why younger generation community members of the AMS are inclined to return to their masjid, and their roots in this moment in history, and why their parents generations, the baby boomers, almost systematically left their affiliation with the AMS in the second half of the 20th century. Using digital ethnographic methods, digital media creative practices, traditional archiving techniques, and an approach to creative scholarship, which I define in my previous book, I explore the personal stories and memories of the Lipka Tatar community of Brooklyn, NY, and in so doing explore the broader connective themes that arise. While drawing from artifacts and the outcomes of the creative response process, I will consider the socio-political, and historical drivers that contributed to the unique development of the diaspora Lipka Tatar community in Brooklyn, NY.
Alongside this second book, I will be partnering with the American Mohammedan Society to begin the development of the vernacular photograph and artefact collection, based on the current collection that is stored at the Masjid in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I have already received approval from the caretaker, and board of the AMS to document these artefacts, and to collect, stories, memories, and history from the older generation members of the community. I am in the process of attempting to secure funding to begin the digitization of the collection artefacts.