Beyond the Archive: Interpreting Silence

deadline for submissions: 
January 10, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Brandeis University

The 15th annual Brandeis Graduate Student Conference will be held March 25th, 2022, with the theme “Beyond the Archive: Interpreting Silence.” 

The conference will interrogate how critics, historians, and archivists make sense of the absences in the archival research. What do scholars do when the archive is insufficient? What can we do when the historical record about a certain text, author, community, or lifestyle has been lost, systematically destroyed, or simply not ever recorded? Scholars of history deal with archival absence in their own ways, but is there a particularly fruitful approach to the silence in other disciplines, and how do these different scholarly pathways work together or contradict one another? How can we use new methods and technologies to interpret previously hidden histories? Which silences are worth attending to?

Concepts like critical fabulation, which was proposed by Sadiya Hartman in her essay “Venus in Two Acts,” have been generative for authors in thinking through the problem of the archive. How do concepts like these attend to the violence done to  racialized histories by the forces of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capital? What effect have the  theories of traditional and post-structuralist historicism had on literary and cultural production in the past  decades? Likewise, scholars of medieval and ancient history draw conclusions and propose theories based on a rather small pool of evidence. Does their work suffer from the gaps in the archive, or does it suggest the possibility of creative interpretation within the archive? In addition to these questions, our conference also seeks to incorporate the discourses surrounding silence and haunting, by connecting them explicitly to the contemporary issues of record keeping and preservation in the digital age.

Papers dealing with silences, gaps, misrepresentations, or erasure of archives across all cultures, languages, nations, and ethnicities are welcome. To pursue an interdisciplinary approach to archival work, this conference welcomes papers across all disciplines in and beyond the humanities. 


Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of digital humanities in archive interpretation

  • Teaching and learning gaps in the archive 

  • Debates on what is considered as part of the archive

  • Decolonizing traditional archival material 

  • Literary interpretations of gaps in the archive

  • How does the glut of some archives create a gap in others

  • Innovative approaches to archival work



For individual papers, you are invited to submit a 150-250 word abstract or proposal online to Proposals must be submitted by January 10th, 2022. 

Please include your full name, affiliation, status, (professor, graduate student, undergraduate, independent scholar, etc.) email and telephone number in your proposal email.