Information Studies


Critical archives and records reading group

Debates about the role of archives and records in cultural, social and political processes are of long-standing. Since the early 2000s theorists and practitioners have confronted the ways in which they have served as ‘tools for both oppression and liberation’ (Caswell, Punzalan & Sangwand, 2017).  Subsequently approaches informed by postcolonialism, critical race studies, feminism, queer theory and deconstructionism have interrogated the role of archives and records in social justice and equity for marginalised and ‘symbolically annihilated’ communities (Caswell, 2016). Recent research has emphasised the need to address imbalances of power, to support the ‘archival autonomy’ of plural voices (Evans et al, 2015), to create collaborative, open spaces in the ‘archival multiverse’ (Evans, McKemmish & Rolan, 2017) and to generate ‘radical empathy’ (Caswell & Cifor, 2016).  Critical approaches have been central to this work, in seeking ‘to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them’ (Horkheimer, 1982) through reflection and critique. 

Each month (in term time) the Critical Archives and Records Reading Group meets to discuss an article, paper, podcast or output in any media that is relevant to archival studies, in order to reflect the current state of recordkeeping practice and research using critical approaches from across humanities and social science disciplines. Sessions are open to anyone who is interested, including practitioners and students. We will try where possible to focus on resources that are freely available; if something is behind a paywall efforts will be made to share it people who don’t have access.

Dates and information about the 2019/2020 year can be found here - please note that the last three sessions of this year were postponed due to coronavirus regulations. 

Dates and information about readings for the previous 2018/2019 year can be found here. 

The events will run from 5:30pm to 7:00pm, in room G31 in Foster Court (Department of Information Studies). Attendees are encouraged to bring snacks along! 

The schedule is published termly, with group members proposing materials for discussion in the previous term.  Group members can chose to introduce and facilitate sessions on areas of particular interest to them; alternatively sessions will take the form of open discussion or activity.

The reading group is part of the ICARUS seminar programme.  For more information, please contact the convenors: Kirsty Fife – k.fife.12@ucl.ac.uk; Hannah Smyth – Hannah.smyth@ucl.ac.uk.