In their 2016 article From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in the Archives, Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor define radical empathy as “a willingness to be affected, to be shaped by another’s experience, without blurring the lines between the self and the other.” Incorporating a feminist ethics approach that centers lived experiences that fall out of the “official” archival record, Caswell and Cifor identify archivists as caregivers whose responsibilities are not primarily bound to records but to records creators, subjects, users, and communities through “a web of mutual affective responsibility.”
In a profession that has staunchly held onto myths of its own neutrality, objectivity, and dissociation of the subjective and personal, centering concepts of the body and affect critically engages archives’ and archivists’ complicity in perpetuating inequality. Recent and intersecting conversations in the archival field about feminism, queerness, race, anti-racism, contingent labor practices, peer-mentorship, and decentralizing whiteness in the profession, all relate to the concept of radical empathy in practice.
We invite authors from a variety of career experiences and archival practices (students, early career professionals, and colleagues working in community archives, public libraries, museums, non-profits, corporations, etc.) to contribute to this special issue of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies. This issue will provide an extended exploration of “how an archival ethics of care can be enacted in real world environments.” It will explicitly focus on case studies, in particular case studies that engage feminist theory and frameworks, relating to the lived experiences of practicing archivists.
Suggested questions and topics include (but are not limited to):
- Whose bodies do we speak of in a profession whose majority makeup represents privileged bodies that are white, cis-gender, conforming to oppressive definitions and standards of ability, and have access to institutional or personal monetary resources? Whose bodies are erased or occluded in the profession?
- Archival description project audits that re-examine language in legacy finding aids.
- Affective documentation of underrepresented communities in archives.
- Managing grief and trauma with record creators, donors, subjects, users, communities, and in archival collections. What are the roles of the archivist?
- Building team competence through peer-mentorship and networks of skill and knowledge sharing.
- Critical examination of contingent labor and employment practices.
- Managing emotional labor in systemically oppressive work environments through affective relationship building (vis-a-vis manager or peer relationships).
- Exploration of access and security models that critically engage users and communities outside of academia (i.e. alternatives to the “panopticon”).
- Inclusion and recognition of archival labor and interventions in description.
- Measuring affective response as an evaluation method to archival instruction.
Deadline for Submission: January 30, 2019Read more about Radical Empathy in Archival Practice