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Dr. Anelise H. Shrout @AneliseHShrout
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Today, I had the incredible privilege of sitting in on the “Archival Gaps and Silenced Subjects of the First French Empire” at #WSFH18, featuring .@cacayne, Sophie White, .@DrKBlock and .@DannaAgmon (.@Historiann was an invoked panelist)
The panel was excellent - anyone interested in questions of archival practice, historical methodology or ethics should seek these amazing scholars out. My phone was charging during, but I took lots of notes, and wanted to share some of the things that stood out to me.
SW: We need to attend to "silences that hang in the air even when we do have testimony" - IOW, all silences are not equal, and silences that are deliberately left by historical actors (in particular indigenous & actors of color) need to be read as deliberate rhetorical choices.
SW: We also need to attend to the materiality of silences. Silences are not only found in textual documents.
KB: The archive over-reports the voices of elites (I really like the framework of over-reporting here, because it moves from a deficit model to one that puts the onus of an over-abundance of elite voices on the elites themselves).
CC: "If we change the way that we write we change the way we engage with archives and the way we engage with the past" in re: writing for popular audiences, and telling risky stories.
CC: "There are no voices that are irrecoverable, there are simply invitations to nw methods and practices that make those voices public once more."
CC: We need to be aware of the ways in which native peoples 1) were historically present in European and American spaces (Read Coll Thrush's book on indigenous London) 2) the ways in which native voices are still present in the antiquities and black market trade in objects ...
... and 3) aware that U.S. historians all practice our craft in settler colonial spaces
DA: Typology of archival gaps:
- Physical gaps (things that have been culled from archives)
- Historiographical gaps (things that are present in archives but ignored by historical narratives)
- Epistemological gaps (things that are unseen because they are unthinkable) (Trouillot)
(An excellent example of the latter - the history of women has long been neglected. The history of non-binary people is treated as archivally unknowable)
DA: Archival gaps are *always* a product of human action
A comment from the audience that I also loved, was that this methodology has the potential to "make noise out of silence."
Shorter version: all of these scholars are doing amazing and cutting-edge work in the theory and methods of archives, and we all need to think more about how our historical practices unthinkingly reinscribe power structures and violence of the past.
Also, buy all of their books.
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