GI429      Half Unit
Archival Interventions: Feminist, Queer and Decolonial Approaches

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Clare Hemmings PAN


This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Gender (Sexuality), MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Peace and Security, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is available for any MSc student at LSE, but students from outside the Dept of Gender Studies will need to seek permission to register. They will need provide a statement that shows a strong background in feminist, queer or post/decolonial theories, or a background in archives or library studies. These statements will be reviewed and entry cannot be guaranteed'.

Course content

The course will foreground an interdisciplinary approach to the archive that provides students with skills to approach archival work for their own research, and embed them in the critical work on archives that characterises much of the secondary and theoretical literature in the field. The course introduces students to archives both close to home – the Hall Carpenter Archive and the Women’s Library, both at LSE – and further afield – at the British Library and online. It highlights the importance of archives for research in gender studies, and teaches key methods (e.g. sampling, cross-referencing) for archival data management. It explores the importance of archives generated through social movements as well as or as a critique of national archives and asks students to think about how to generate their own archives. The course’s critical perspective assumes that the prioritisation of sources and the gaps within archives are fundamental to the generation of knowledge: what is lost is as important as what is visible or what remains. Students will be introduced to work that highlights the colonial, racist, homophobic and sexist nature of archives and asked to think about the kinds of critiques that transform our archival legacy. Finally, the course will encourage students to experiment with archives, in order to expand what we think of as an archive and to intervene to transform ‘archival space’. Drawing on work on ‘the sensed archive’, on memoir, fiction and visual art practice, the course considers ways of bringing archives to life.

The course will be divided into three parts. The first ‘archival fabrications’ asks what an archive is, how feminist, queer and critical race theorists have generated them, and will explore some fundamental techniques and issues that archiving presents to students. This will allow for the development of fuller methodological training and will engage students on the question of sources and how to gather or interpret them. Students will be introduced to oral history, online and social movement archives as well as the curation and form of more institutionalised archives. The second, ‘archival readings’ highlights the different world-views archives generate from a critical perspective, foregrounding issues of nationalism, memorialisation, sexism and heteronormativity within archives and their curation. It also encourages students to think about alternative ways of understanding and reading archives, focused on ‘exploring the gaps’ that are inevitably part of any archival project.What kinds of reading tactics have feminist, queer and/or postcolonial critics developed for intervening in archives and to what effect? How might these tactics be harnessed for students’ own research? The final part, ‘archival experiments’ introduces students to a range of creative, interdisciplinary methods that generate new archives from a critical perspective (and moving beyond critique). Students will be introduced to a range of experiments that foreground alternative sources, orderings, collections and imaginings as a way of extending archival knowledge. For example, black feminist work on ‘critical fabulation’ as a storytelling technique has been key to providing fuller archival knowledge of everyday lives; queer work on the sensed archive or auto-theory has extended the disciplinary range of archival sources; and feminist artists and activists have played with sources (and made others) in order to transform what we think of as past, present and future. Students will be asked to consider their own archival practice through all three parts of the course.


This course runs in LT.  It will be delivered using both asynchronous and interactive teaching and learning elements.

There will be a reading week in week 6 in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will visit an archive of their choice (online or in person) and narrate their experience of the archive. What work does the archive do? How is the archive organised? What happened when they visited? Based on their visit, they will identify a research question they will use as the basis of further exploration for the summative. The formative is a 1500 word piece (due by end of week 5), and should include a detailed account of the archive itself, the research process, and the research question (and how they came to it).

NB. Students will be given lots of support for this process - LSE archivists will come to the workshops to introduce students to the range of materials/sources at the School; students will be given a list of possible archives to visit in person or online; and they will have at least one workshop devoted to the needs of the formative, including the importance of identifying a research question going forward.

Indicative reading

  • Anjali Arondekar (2009) For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Duke University Press).
  • Jacques Derrida (1995) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (University of Chicago Press).
  • Feminist Review Journal (2020) Special Issue on Feminist Archives
  • Saidiya Hartman (2019) Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (Norton)
  • Julietta Singh (2018) No Archive Will Restore You (Punctum Books)
  • Gayatri Spivak (1999) A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Additional Initial Readings:

  • Antoinette Burton (2005) Archival Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History (Duke University Press).
  • Tina Campt (2004) Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (Michigan University Press)
  • Hazel Carby (2018) Imperial Intimacies: a Tale of Two Islands (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Howard Chiang (2014) ‘Archiving Peripheral Taiwan’, Radical History Review (120): 204-225.
  • Ann Cvetkovich (2009) ‘Photographing objects: art as queer archival practice’, Lost and Found in Translation
  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs (2018) M Archive: After the End of the World (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Stuart Hall, “Constituting an Archive,” Third Text 54 (2001).
  • Clare Hemmings (2018) Considering Emma Goldman: Feminist Political Ambivalence and the Imaginative Archive (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Nadine Lake (2014) ‘Black Lesbian Bodies: Reflections on a Queer South African Archive’, Africa Insight 44(1); 69-83.
  • Martin Manalansan (2014) The “Stuff” of Archives: Mess, Migration, and Queer Lives”, Radical History Review (120): 94-107.
  • Nayanika Mukerjee (2015) The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971 (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Luisa Passerini (1996) Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968 (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press).
  • Tanya Tagaq (2018) Split Tooth (Viking)


Project (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Based on the formative, students will present and critically engage the archive they have visited as their course project. The assessment will include an extended account of the archive, any visit(s) made, encounters with the materials and people in the archive and methods used to access materials. Students will be supported to identify a key research question for exploring the archive (as part of their formative) and will be asked to critically assess the archive space from the perspective of that question. In line with the material and approaches covered in the course, students will also be encouraged (with close supervision) to integrate interdisciplinary and experiment approaches to the field. 3000 words split into background and archival encounter (part 1) and analysis (part 2) [1 week after end of LT].

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Gender Studies

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills