Engendering Archives

Conveners: Diana Taylor and Marianne Hirsch

We propose to convene a working group centered on gender, sexuality, race, and the archive. Archival practices are central to the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The archive is simultaneously the ubiquitous evidential background scholars employ and a site for critical reflection about its social and historical construction. The archive is also fertile ground for artists and performers who use and, at the same time, critique its construction. What is an archive? Who or what authorizes its construction?

How do different cultures and sub-cultures approach the transmission of their heritage, and how do the archives they construct, or refuse to construct, produce cultural difference? How can embodied or intangible cultural practices be archived, and what alternate models of the archive [e.g. the repertoire] can account for their transmission? In what ways are these questions intensified and complicated by the development of electronic media that are radically changing the ways in which knowledge is classified, stored, and retrieved?

“Engendering Archives” will draw on the theories and methods developed by scholars of race, gender, and sexuality to investigate some of these fundamental questions from a global perspective that takes account of the role of racism and coloniality in the production of archives and of categories that make legible or erase particular events and experiences. Gender, along with race, sexuality, and class, are inescapable aspects of differential power relations that determine what societies remember and what they forget.

Topics of discussion during the Encuentro will reflect the interests of members but may include: virtual archives and their impact on how knowledge is structured, classified, and used; the link between race and visuality in the construction of particular archives; intangible heritage and its challenge to conventional archives; new archives and the creation of the unthought; the reconceptualization of archival practices in new museums and collections; and the problematics of archiving the emotions. Members of the working group will be asked to contribute work to be read and discussed during our sessions.

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