"Archives and the Management of Sex" at PAMLA Nov. 11-13
This panel will explore how institutions dedicated to the collection, preservation, and circulation of material knowledge manage sexuality. Sex materials create conflicting imperatives for librarians. As one collections curator at the New York Public Library recently told a reporter, "We needed to collect life as it was lived… It was always part of our mandate." Yet librarians at NYPL also had a mandate to protect the mass of pornographic magazines, pulp novels, and fliers they collected by carefully regulating access to them. Until recently, sex materials at NYPL labeled with three stars required supervision. That one example illustrates how sequestration generally determines who can read about sex and under what conditions. It also shows how archival practices imbue sex collections with an excess of meaning. We invite papers that consider those various and often-contradictory meanings by identifying, describing, or theorizing how archives—broadly conceived—produce sexual knowledge through the management of sexually explicit materials. Possible questions to consider include, How do different archival practices constitute sex and eroticism as objects of study? How do reading conditions shape personal and historical memory? How might the special case of sex collections challenge us to rethink the archive as a cultural institution?
Proposals due Monday, April 25th