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Archival Troubles

Claire Eustance, Clare Hemmings, Amal Treacher Kabesh, Rahul Rao and Sadie Wearing

6-8pm Jan 25th
Graham Wallas Room, Old Building
Free and open to all 

This panel brings together people considering questions of power and difference in their archival research. The archive has been thoroughly debunked as a neutral site of investigation, with theorists such as Gayatri Spivak and Jacques Derrida attending to its role in producing as well as reflecting knowledge. Feminist, decolonial and queer theorists such as Anjali Arondekar and Ann Cvetkovich have highlighted the importance of both a critical relationship to the archive and a creative understanding of ‘archive troubles’. Attending to power and difference in the archive (however we define this) raises important questions about truth, the relationship of the past and present, and the role of the researcher in shaping their discoveries. What does it mean to embrace ‘archival trouble’? How might feminist, decolonial and queer theorists engage creatively and optimistically (as well as critically) in their archival forays? What archival faith remains once we start from power and difference?

Our panel includes:

Claire Eustance (Greenwich) will focus on the archives of British “first wave” feminism, focussing on the influence of and also the challenges presented by the dominating narratives of the late 19th/early 20th century women’s suffrage movement and the suffragettes.  What has been obscured and silenced, how can this be addressed and why is it important?

Clare Hemmings (LSE) will speak to the ‘impossibility’ of a queer archive, drawing on her work on Emma Goldman and political ambivalence. How can we generate an archive of sexual politics that goes beyond the gaps of meaning and text? What role might fiction play in animating alternative sexual histories?

Amal Treacher Kabesh (Nottingham) will talk about the complexity of power relations in her archival research on masculinity in Egypt. Who has power? How do we open up the confusions and intricacies of power relations in the archive? What are the roles of affect and fantasy in shaping our relationship to the archive?

Rahul Rao (SOAS) will explore some of the methodological difficulties faced while trying to explore contemporary Ugandan memory around a putatively same-sex loving 19th century king. How to counter silences in the archive without reading ‘backwards’? How do we understand what counts as 'sex' across time?

Sadie Wearing (LSE), with work on the London archive, class and gender, will chair the session.

 

Biographies:

Clare Hemmings is Professor of Feminist Theory at LSE, and the Director of the Gender Institute. Her research focuses on the politics of feminist and queer theory – its histories and institutional lives, its travels and its many lives and deaths. Her first book Bisexual Spaces (2002) explored the presence of bisexuality within US queer cultures and histories; Why Stories Matter (2011) charted the ‘political grammar’ of feminist theory; Emma! A Feminist Politics of Ambivalence (2017, in press) considers Emma Goldman’s significance for contemporary feminist politics.

Amal Treacher Kabesh is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy (University of Nottingham). She has published extensively on matters of subjectivity, gender and 'ethnicity'. Her current theoretical and political engagements focus on Egypt and Egyptian subjectivities. Postcolonial Masculinities: Emotions, Histories and Ethics was published in 2013 (Ashgate) and Egyptian Revolutions: Repetition, Conflict, Identification is in press (Rowman and Littlefield)

Rahul Rao has research interests in international relations theory, the international relations of South Asia, comparative political thought, and gender and sexuality. He is currently working on a book on queer postcolonial temporality. His first book Third World Protest: Between Home and the World (Oxford University Press, 2010) explored the relationship between cosmopolitanism and nationalism in postcolonial protest. He was previously a Term Fellow in Politics at University College, Oxford. He has a law degree from the National Law School of India University, and read for a doctorate in international relations at the University of Oxford.

Claire Eustance is a senior lecturer in History in the Department of History, Politics and Social Sciences at the University of Greenwich. Her early publications focussed on alternative “suffrage histories” and addressed militancy, masculinity and political identity.  The collection of essays she edited with A.V. John, The Men’s Share: Masculinities, Male Support and Women’s Suffrage in Britain, 1890-1920 was reprinted by Routledge in 2014. She is currently working on a history of British feminism in the 20th century, from the perspective of one of the longest surviving feminist societies, the Women’s Freedom League. 

Sadie Wearing's research and teaching interests are in the critical analysis of literary, visual and media culture with specific interest in representations of aging, temporality and memory in both historical and contemporary contexts. Her work is concerned with questions of the political implications of deployments of cultural understandings of time, memory and the body. Specifically she examines the ways in which literary and cinematic narratives articulate contested cultural processes including questions of public and private memory, national identity, heritage and belongings, gender sexuality and aging. She has written on the questions raised by adaptations of literary and biographical texts and the specificity of cinematic forms of memory and forgetting, and at how these might be understood in relation to postcolonial theory, postfeminism and contemporary formations of celebrity. Her recent work examines the ways in which cinema, literature and popular culture reflect and complicate wider cultural assumptions about aging, memory and temporality, and the complexity of the ways in which aging subjectivities, constructions and embodiments are produced and reproduced.

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