Bridging Justice Based Practices for Archives + Critical DH

T-Kay Sangwand (, UCLA, United States of America and Caitlin Christian-Lamb (, University of Maryland, United States of America and Purdom Lindblad (, University of Maryland, United States of America

As scholars and practitioners in digital humanities, we create, analyze, trouble, and reference “the archive,” though are often signaling vastly different (mis)understandings of archives, archivists, and archival practices. While both archivists and digital humanists engage critical questions around shared areas of practice (i.e. access, labor, privacy) these conversations often occur in parallel spheres with little recognition of the intellectual contributions in the distinct yet intersecting fields of archives and DH. This workshop aims to bridge the discourse occurring in critical archival studies and critical digital humanities by engaging participants in articulating justice based practices related to appraisal, access, description, pedagogy, privacy, provenance, and system design, as well as collectively contribute these suggested practices to expand existing resources on critical archives and DH (Caswell et al., 2017). At their best, archives and digital humanities center voices that have been obscured through negligence or violently silenced from mainstream narratives. In the face of increased criminalization of and violence towards people of color, immigrants, journalists, mounting militarization, consolidation of media outlets, the political, social, and material impacts of climate change, global capitalism, and white supremacy, we feel a renewed sense of urgency to surface, highlight, and empower narratives from marginalized groups as a tool for social justice and envision new critical archives and digital humanities realities while not recreating oppressive and exploitative power dynamics in the process. This workshop is inspired by Rasheedah Phillips call to articulate “oral futures” and “speaking into existence of what you want to happen” (Phillips, 2017) as well as Michelle Caswell’s classroom exercise to “collectively strategize concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy” (Caswell, 2017). The workshop will address the following questions: What are the archival processes of appraisal, accession, description, and access that shape the materials that we can use/collect/analyze as digital scholars and practitioners? How do archivists exercise agency at these various points in an archives’ life cycle? What power do researchers/users exercise in their use and (re)presentation of archives? How are communities represented in archives impacted by the use of their archives? What are our collective and individual responsibilities to issues of privacy, description, and access to the materials we collect, analyze, and publish? How can we interrogate archival and scholarly “best practices” and work towards ethical and just practices? How can investigating these overlaps better identify points of collaboration and promote better understandings of cultural heritage across a range of roles, disciplines, and publics?

Appendix A

  1. Caswell, M. (2017). Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives. Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. 87 (3): 222-235.
  2. Caswell, M. et al. (2017). Critical Archival Studies: An Introduction. Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies Special Issue: Critical Archival Studies. 1 (2).
  3. Phillips, R. (2017). Time, Memory, and Justice in Marginalized Communities. Instagram post. April 23.