Activism, Advocacy, and the Archive (Panel)
While historical and literary archives have long been integral to the study of the humanities, they are more than simple repositories for historical artifacts. They don’t just preserve works and fragments to be studied, they help us, as scholars, to actively engage in the public sphere. As Randall C. Jimerson notes “Archivists can use the power of archives to promote accountability, open government, diversity, and social justice.” In doing so, archivists can democratize information and open up new avenues of knowing by employing ethical and objective—but not neutral—strategies. This can be especially important for subjugated communities, who’s histories and cultures have been bound and kept distinct. As Lisa Lowe points out: “The repeated injunctions that different groups must be divided and boundaries kept distinct indicate that colonial administrators imagined as dangerous the sexual, laboring, and intellectual contacts among enslaved and indentured nonwhite peoples. The racial classifications in the archive arise, thus, in this context of the colonial need to prevent these unspoken ‘intimacies’ among the colonized.” Therefore, a social justice approach to archival work can help to subvert such power structures, thus allowing for what Lowe calls “reading across” these archives in order to make connections in a transnational and transcultural way.
This panel will consider strategies for creating, maintaining, using, and reading archives. It will focus on the political and ethical implications of archival work, and explore how humanities scholars can use their expertise to advocate for social justice in the public sphere.
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