Activism and Resistance in the Archive

In Cole and Griffith’s interview with Michelle Caswell, she explains her understanding of archives and archiving as “infused with a social justice ethics” (Cole and Griffith 24). Unlike in a museum context where the form and aesthetic of an object is prioritised, the archive inherently contextualises the material. I understand this to be the opportunity and space for resistance and social justice. For example, in archival metadata the same language and terminology used by a community can also be used. While this allows for those in the community to access this information, depending on the context and archival institution, the decision to use a different language or specific term can in itself be taking on a political stance.

In Christen’s article, independent web portals and digital archives in which tribes have control over databases and the creation of records are said to “deliberately position Indigenous communities themselves as the owners and custodians” (Christen 4). This deinstitutionalized archive and Caswell’s post-custodial archive, have been criticised for its structure but also its status as an archive has been called into question. Is an archive just a collection of records? What is it about these archives that threaten the authority and legitimacy of an institutional archive?


One Reply

  • Excellent questions, Lena. What core principles or structural orthodoxies are these archives challenging? What leads some critics to question their status as legitimate archives? I hope we can address these important questions in our discussion tomorrow!

    And this is your fourth and final post for the semester 🙂 Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *