Michelle Caswell, Our Views and Their Power: Acknowledging Our Positions in Archival Appraisal

Published on September 16th, 2019


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In her talk Michelle Caswell will propose a new methodology, epistemology, and political strategy for appraisal called “feminist standpoint appraisal.” Feminist standpoint appraisal inverts dominant appraisal hierarchies that value records created by those in power at the expense of records created by the oppressed to document and resist their oppression. As such, feminist standpoint appraisal explicitly and unapologetically gives epistemological weight (thereby assigning value to) records created and preserved by, and potentially activated in service to, oppressed communities.

Monday 16 September, 16:00-17:00
organised by Archival and Information Studies, University of Amsterdam and iPRES2019

In her talk Michelle Caswell will propose a new methodology, epistemology, and political strategy for appraisal called “feminist standpoint appraisal.” Feminist standpoint appraisal inverts dominant appraisal hierarchies that value records created by those in power at the expense of records created by the oppressed to document and resist their oppression. As such, feminist standpoint appraisal explicitly and unapologetically gives epistemological weight (thereby assigning value to) records created and preserved by, and potentially activated in service to, oppressed communities. Furthermore, feminist standpoint appraisal shifts our thinking about the position of the archivist, from a purportedly objective “view from nowhere” (which in fact belies a dominant but unnamed white male position), towards a socially located, culturally situated agent who centers ways of being and knowing from the margins. Furthermore, feminist standpoint appraisal calls on archivists who inhabit dominant identities to acknowledge their oppressor standpoints and actively work to dismantle them.

For more information and preparation read her recent article “Dusting for Fingerprints. Introducing Feminist Standpoint Appraisal”.

Michelle Caswell is an Associate Professor of Archival Studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is also an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Asian American Studies. Her research on archives, memory, public history, and social justice has been widely cited in a range of fields. She is the Director of UCLA’s Community Archives Lab and the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive. In 2017, she co-edited a special issue of The Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies on Critical Archival Studies. She is also the lead organizer of the Archivists Against Collective. Her book, Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press as part of their Critical Human Rights series in 2014. The book won the 2015 Waldo Gifford Leland for Best Publication from the Society of American Archivists.

The lecture by Michelle Caswell is made possible with the support of iPRES2019 and Archival and Information Studies, UvA.


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