Ethics and justice in archiving?

After reading the Caswell interview, I am not sure if ethics and justice are the right language to discuss the archiving of complex and morally ambiguous social issues. She says that for her, social justice and archiving “100% overlap”, and this works when she talks about issues of representation of minority groups. But when the issues get more tricky, archiving for social justice or archiving social injustice becomes difficult to talk about in terms of rights and wrongs. What does it mean to document contemporary German Islamophobia ethically?

Caswell calls for the ethics of care, in part as a response to the abstract “metaphor” of The Archive. While I understand some of the issues archivists and archival scholars must have with this type of theory, it seems to me that archiving for “a more just world” is a lot more abstract than the Foucauldian notion of the archive. To me, it seems a lot more useful to ask what statements, studies, or claims could arise from the way in which Islamophobia is documented, rather than to consider it in terms of social justice.


One Reply

  • Excellent, Laura. You’re raising some important questions about the broader politics of activist archiving. What does it mean to archive justly, as compared to archiving justness? And how could we helpfully combine questions central to the “practical” archive with those germane to the Foucauldian archive?

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