Archivists and other archives workers are not attuned to how Black life is lived. As a result of this disregard for the lived experiences of Black people, the discourses of everyday Black memory work are neither legible nor affirmed as archival practice. In the field of archival studies there are specific ways that blackness colors memory work and documentary practices. Family collecting is coded as hoarding. Refusing fixed memorials is not read as a legitimate form of preservation. Dominant modes of archiving and archival research are resistant to the dispersion of Black material culture, allowing Black lives to be deemed disordered and illegible. Black archivists who labor to render Black lives and Black culture visible in brick-and-mortar archives are often positioned as nameless subjects in the historical record and the archival studies canon. This themed issue imagines the possibilities for naming another archive, another mode through which we might view Black lived experiences and Black archival lives and understand how Black lives have been “lived in spaces of impossibility” (Omowale 2018).
The theme explores how the social meaning-past, present, and future-of Black archival practices get imagined, contested, and negotiated within traditional archival spaces and in spaces intentionally coded as Black. To date, these spaces have too often been seen as mutually exclusive. Scholarly engagement with Black archival practice has started to address archival redress and recovery (Hartman 2008; Helton et al. 2015), reparative archives (Hughes-Watkins 2018), the Black memory worker (Hearn et al. 2018), descriptive practices (Drake 2016; Johnson 2018), gaps and vagaries in institutional archives (Sutherland 2017), and the development of alternative Black archival spaces (Drake and Williams 2018). However, as Black archival practice is considered more carefully, new understandings have begun to emerge from refusal (Omowale 2018) to embodiment (Lans 2018, Sutherland 2019). As the contributions in this issue will reveal, the potential and promise of Black archival practice has much more to offer.
Black archives and archival practices reach well beyond the historical encounter. Black archives and archival practices demand more than a cursory glance at the materials in an archival repository to declare that there are no Black archival stories to be told. Black archives and archival practices are more than archivists arranging, describing, and digitizing Black collections or materials. Black archives and archival practices testify to the complexity of how Black life is lived, documented, and remembered.
Putting scholars from Archival Studies, African American Studies, the Digital Humanities, and other scholarly and professional disciplines in conversation with one another around the topic of Black archival practice, this themed issue asks us to consider questions such as: What constitutes a Black archive? And what constitutes Black archival practice-inside the archives and in the spaces that exceed it? We invite work that centers Black archival epistemologies in order to contend with the anti-Blackness of archival studies and create the conditions of possibility for more robust discourse around archival practice in Black scholarship.
Organized around 10 broad themes, this issue centers Black archives, archivists, and archival practices and engages with the following ideas:
- Care – care in and as archival practice, stewardship as care
- Celebration – celebrations of Black life in and as archival practice
- Crisis – documenting in the midst of two global Black health crises
- Embodiment – embodied/living archives, human sites of archival memory, killing embodied archives
- Forgetting – disremembering, the right to forget, the right to be forgotten
- Home – home archives, family, displacement of home
- Labor – the work of Black archivists / archival scholars / stewards / historians
- Legibility – reading an archive, unconventional archives/materials (eg. seed archives, soil archives)
- Refusal – refusal of documentation, donation to institutions, exceeding the archive, fugivitity
- Repair – (re)membering, putting things/people back together through archival theory/practice, Black archival practice as reparative and/or restorative
Zakiya Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonia Sutherland: email@example.com
Full Submissions are due by May 1, 2021 and must be submitted via TBS‘s landing page on Taylor & Francis’s website. Submissions must be between 4,000-5,000 words maximum, inclusive of endnotes and images (see guidelines). Black Archival Practices will be published as our Summer 2022 issue.
To avoid your article being sent back or rejected, review all guidelines before submitting.