Archives, Digital Media and Social Justice

Disciplines: Information Studies; Gender and Sexuality Studies; American Studies; Media and Communication Studies; Memory Studies; and Critical Ethnic Studies.

HIV/AIDS Archives, Cultural Production and Activism 

Role: Principal Investigator
Project Description: My current book project, Viral Cultures: Activism, Affect and the Archives of HIV/AIDS, examines the critical potential of nostalgia as recorded and produced by archives documenting 1980s and 1990s HIV/AIDS activism in the United States. This project expands upon my dissertation research. I argue that critical nostalgia, an ethical mode of critique grounded in the bittersweet longing for a past time or space, is a productive lens at every moment of collaboration between archives and the AIDS activist communities they document and serve. Using archival ethnography as a methodology, this project is grounded in a series of archival collections and collaborations between activists, artists, and archivists. These materials are culled from the New York Public Library, New York University, and Visual AIDS, a New York-based arts organization that raises AIDS awareness through visual art, assists artists living with HIV/AIDS, and preserves artists’ legacies. The project draws on literatures on new media, nostalgia, archives, temporality, memory, and HIV/AIDS historiography. With attention to the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, nationality, and ability, my inquiry focuses on the historical development of these collections, the connections of activists to their materials, and archivists’ relationships to the communities implicated in their records. I also analyze contemporary activists’ and artists’ creative use and reuse of these archival records on new media platforms, in exhibitions, and within performances and visual artworks to produce knowledge, provoke dialogue, recognize feelings, preserve legacies, and support ongoing movements to end AIDS.

Funding Sources: Social Science Research Council-Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, UCLA Graduate Research Mentorship Award, UCLA Graduate Summer Research Mentorship Award.

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Critical Theory, Information Ethics and Archival Studies

Role: Principal Investigator (projects completed in collaboration with Michelle Caswell, Stacy Wood, and Jamie A. Lee), 2013 to Present
Project Description: There is a strong tradition of social justice as a concern in archival studies, ethics, and practice. These projects examine the history of social justice work in the archival field, the use of critical theory including feminist theory for articulation of social justice goals and projects in archives and archival studies, and implications of this work for the field’s future. Together these projects argue for the importance of research and praxis that strengthens the tenets of social justice as a central principle throughout archival scholarship and practice.

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Archives and Affect, Affect and the Archives  

Role: Principal Investigator (conference and special issue with Anne J. Gilliland), 2013 to Present
Project Description: In recent decades, affect, feelings, and emotions have become a major scholarly focus for fields across the social sciences and humanities. The affective turn has explored both the ontological and the political, social, and phenomenological aspects of affect. I have developed a research agenda that exposes the centrality and contributions of affect studies to the archive as a theoretical construct and to archives as collections of records, the institutions that steward them, as physical place, and as a series of processes. Humanistic work commonly understands the archive as a metaphor for storage and memory or as a discursive system. I employ the metaphorical archive’s plasticity while linking this discourse with that on the institutional, financial, and material realities of archives and to scholarship in archival studies, an information studies subfield that examines the practices, theory, and history of records as evidence of human activity that travel across space and time. By drawing together these discourses the power and potential of archives and records for social justice aims is exposed. In 2014, I co-organized the first symposium on “Affect and the Archive” bringing together leading scholars in archives and records management, gender studies, cultural studies, literature, and anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. Building upon the momentum generated by that symposium, I guest co-edited a special issue of Archival Science, the top international journal in archival studies, on “Affect and the Archive, Archives and their Affects.” This was the first issue in archival studies to address affect and laid important groundwork for emergent research on affect’s significance in archival processes.

Funding: Archival Education and Research Institute, UCLA Center for Information as Evidence, Department of Information Studies, Department of English, and the UCLA Library.

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Community Archives Lab

Department of Information Studies, University of California Los Angeles, 2015 to 2017
Role: Graduate Student Researcher
P
roject Description: This ongoing project investigates through collaboration with community archives sites across the ontological, epistemological, affective, and social impact of community archives. It focuses on the ways in which communities marginalized by race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender and political position experience both the profoundly negative affective consequences of absence and misrepresentation in mainstream media and archives (which we tern ‘symbolic annihilation’) and the positive effect of complex and autonomous forms of representation in community-driven archives (which we term ‘representational belonging’). The project began by working with community archives founders and volunteers, it has now come to address a series of further questions related to the use and users of community archives, centered on the needs of LGBTQ communities and communities of color. The research lab investigates the impact of independent, community-based archives in Southern California on the individuals and communities they serve, as well as provide tools for such archives to assess and articulate their impact. A preliminary community archives impact model being tested. Users of five community-based archives in Southern California will participate in focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Outcomes of the project will include an open assessment toolkit for community archives to study and assess their own users, as well as published research results.

Funding Sources: Institute of Museum and Library Services Early Career Grant, Hellman Fellowship, UCLA (PI: Michelle Caswell)

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Human Rights Archives in the Pacific Rim 

History Department, University of California, Los Angeles, 2014
Role: Graduate Student Researcher
Project Description: Human Rights Archives in the Pacific Rim: Political, Legal and Ethical Challenges brings together historians, human rights practitioners, legal experts and archivists to explore the complex set of issues involved in the creation, housing, ownership and use of archives on human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. The collaborative work resulted in an international symposium at UCLA and a special double issue of Archival Science.

Funding Sources: University of California Pacific Rim Research Program (Co-PIs: Michelle Caswell and G. Robinson)

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Making Invisible Histories Visible: Preserving the Legacy of Lesbian Feminist Activism and Writing in Los Angeles 

Center for the Study of Women, University of California, Los Angeles, 2013 to 2014
Role: Graduate Student Researcher
Project Description: This was a three-year project between the Center for the Study of Women, the June Mazer Lesbian Archives and the UCLA Library to arrange, describe, digitize, and make physically and electronically accessible two major clusters of Mazer collections related to West Coast lesbian/feminist activism and writing since the 1930s. In addition to providing crucial materials to humanities scholars and historians, the project will also grew the Mazer’s infrastructure, preserving content that exists now while ensuring the future of the Mazer and its collections.

Funding Source: National Endowment for the Humanities and UCLA Center for Community Partnerships (PI: Kathleen McHugh).

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