Activist Archivists and Archival Activisms
Call for Papers
New Volume: Activist Archivists and Archival Activisms: Documenting 21st Century Social Justice
- Rand Jimerson – Foreword
- Professor Emeritus, Western Washington University and author of Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice.
- Trudy Peterson – Introduction
- Acting Archivist of the United (1993) and has consulted / advised on Truth Commissions in South Africa, Honduras, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Nuclear Claims Tribunal of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and training Guatemalans working with the newly discovered Police Archives on Standard Archival Techniques.
- Verne Harris – Afterword
- Archivist for the papers of Nelson Mandela and Head of the Memory Programme at the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Center of Memory and Dialgue.
Please submit proposals of approximately 700 – 1000 words by May 1st to:
- Ben Alexander: Benalexa@usc.edu or Bea3@Columbia.edu
From the end of World War II through the change in millennia intersections between the evolution of the post-modern archive and the formation of post-modern historical discourses intersected concerns for social justice within complex geo-political landscapes composed of fractious post-colonial environments, Cold War interests, and often violent confrontations (often within western democracies) centering on demands for inclusion and plurality. In general, the archive created precedent for the extension of Activisms around the world by incorporating new forms of material remembrance that provided precedent for newly imagined forms of collective memory. Indeed, while it may seem quaint today, archives struggled to preserve unprecedented quantities of visual materials (both moving image and static) as well as new forms of manuscript materials (mimeographs, Zines etc.) that in their day seemed dangerously ephemeral but were absolutely essential to social justice movements. Further, the archivist had to imagine new ways to engage new forms of civil rights actions and movements.
Scholars, archivists and activists today are confronted with similar (yet, radically distinct) challenges. Activist cultures are now largely immaterial. Activist movements are often global in reach but shaped by geographically specific cultures. The archivist today must assume new agencies to engage and document social justice actions and movements. Indeed, the distinction between archivisms and activisms is decidedly blurred.
Additionally, advances in social justice (and social justice movements) rely upon continuums of activist memory. It follows that we are also deeply interested in contributions that offer insight into how 20th century social justice movements will maintain their fully agency as they are interpreted (and reinterpreted) in 21st century matrices.
Our volume seeks collaborative and international discussion among scholars (from a breadth of interests), as well as activists and archivists to engage the tremendous challenges that threaten the historicity of 21st century social justice movements around the world.
We are especially interested in 5 categories of research.
1) What distinguishes 21st century social justice actions from 20th century activisms? What unities and agencies remain consistent among movements including Occupy, The Arab Spring, and BLM?
2) Has the evolution in the very nature of social justice advanced expectations of the archivist? Must the 21st century archivists assume activist agencies? Might 21st century archivists require sensitivities (perhaps training) that is additional to 20th century models?
3) Exploration of the influence of, first, social media as Activist agent and vastly problematic place in the “archive.” If anything, social media complicates and challenges the historical model of comparing material records of an institution with those of separate (and independent) communities that arise to counter or challenge the (abusive) practices of said institution. Social media compresses these process and accumulates vast amounts of metadata (that often features debate among both sides of a protest movement) as it circulates.
4) What will distinguish a 21st century social justice archive from its 20th century counterparts? It would seem that the very core of archival practice will require careful revaluation in such unique 21st century contexts.
5) Finally, we are looking for a broad international perspective. The examples of 21st century social justice referenced above (Occupy, Arab Spring, and BLM) are definitively international in their reach. We are especially interested in perspectives from activists and archivists from around the world.
About the Editor:
Ben Alexander holds an MA and a PhD in American Literature as well as 10-year “pin” (literally a pin) for 10 years of service as a Rare Books and Manuscripts Specialist for the New York Public Library. He teaches archival studies and curatorial studies in the MMLIS program at the University of Southern California. Alexander is also a visiting scholar in the Department of English at Columbia University where he is finishing a monograph entitled, Yaddo: Shaping the American Century (Cornell University Press) and where he is teaching two courses for Columbia Enlgish: American Memory and When American Television Became American Literature. Alexander is completing his edited volume, When American Television Became American Literature (Brill) and is co-editing a second volume entitled From Memory to Marriage: The Archive, Agency and the Advance of LGBTQ+ Rights in America (Brill).