Several recent books and journal issues from Duke University Press have addressed the topic of archives. Learn more about archives through the lenses of transgender studies, queer studies, pedagogy, photography, and more.
In the most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, titled “Archives and Archiving” (volume 2, issue 4), contributors investigate practical and theoretical dimensions of archiving transgender phenomena and ask what constitutes “trans* archives” or “trans* archival practices.” The humanization of the archival craft is particularly compelling for transgender-related archives and archiving. As attention to transgender phenomena continues to increase, the need for thoughtfully conceived and ethically executed trans archival practices becomes all the more pressing. Yet the very basis of this undertaking relies on a daunting definitional and epistemological challenge: in the context of archives, what counts as transgender? Read the introduction, made freely available.
Archive Stories, edited by Antoinette Burton, brings together ethnographies of the archival world, most of which are written by historians. Some contributors recount their own experiences. One offers a moving reflection on how the relative wealth and prestige of Western researchers can gain them entry to collections such as Uzbekistan’s newly formed Central State Archive, which severely limits the access of Uzbek researchers. Others explore the genealogies of specific archives, from one of the most influential archival institutions in the modern West, the Archives nationales in Paris, to the significant archives of the Bakunin family in Russia, which were saved largely through the efforts of one family member. Still others explore the impact of current events on the analysis of particular archives. A contributor tells of researching the 1976 Soweto riots in the politically charged atmosphere of the early 1990s, just as apartheid in South Africa was coming to an end. A number of the essays question what counts as an archive—and what counts as history—as they consider oral histories, cyberspace, fiction, and plans for streets and buildings that were never built, for histories that never materialized.
The essays in the collection in Porn Archives, edited by Tim Dean, Steven Ruszczycky, and David Squires, address the historically and culturally varied interactions between porn and the archive. Topics range from library policies governing access to sexually explicit material to the growing digital archive of “war porn,” or eroticized combat imagery; and from same-sex amputee porn to gay black comic book superhero porn. Together the pieces trace pornography as it crosses borders, transforms technologies, consolidates sexual identities, and challenges notions of what counts as legitimate forms of knowledge. The collection concludes with a valuable resource for scholars: a list of pornography archives held by institutions around the world.
Two recent issues of Radical History Review, “Historical Unravelings,” #120 and “Intimate Tracings,” #122, explore the ways in which the notion of the “queer archive” is increasingly crucial for scholars working at the intersection of history, sexuality, and gender. Efforts to record and preserve queer experiences determine how scholars account for the past and provide a framework for understanding contemporary queer life. Essays in these issues consider historical materials from queer archives around the world as well as the recent critical practice of “queering” the archive by looking at historical collections for queer content (and its absence).
The first issue explores the evolution of grassroots LGBT archives, debates over queer migrations, nationalism and the institutionalization of LGBT memory, the archiving of transgender activism, digitization and the classificatory systems of the archive, performances of the colonial archive, museums as archives, and everyday objects as archivable texts. The second issue considers how archives allow historical traces of sexuality and gender to be sought, identified, recorded, and assembled into accumulations of meaning. Learn more about “Historical Unravelings” and “Intimate Tracings” by reading the introductions, made freely available.
Kathryn Burns argues that the archive itself must be historicized in Into the Archive. Using the case of colonial Cuzco, she examines the practices that shaped document-making. Notaries were businessmen, selling clients a product that conformed to local “custom” as well as Spanish templates. Clients, for their part, were knowledgeable consumers, with strategies of their own for getting what they wanted. In this inside story of the early modern archive, Burns offers a wealth of possibilities for seeing sources in fresh perspective.
Additional articles of interest on archives:
- “Visceral Archives of the Body: Consuming the Dead, Digesting the Divine,” by Zeb Tortorici in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, volume 20 and issue 4
- “Making African American History in the Classroom: The Pedagogy of Processing Undervalued Archives,” by Mollie Godfrey in Pedagogy, volume 16 and issue 1
- “Photographs of a Prayer: The (Neglected) Visual Archive and Latin American Labor History,” by Kevin Coleman in Hispanic American Historical Review, volume 95 and issue 3