Performing the Archival Body: Animating Records in Place through POP-UP Pedagogies

Jamie Ann Lee


 

Abstract

Interdisciplinary scholar Ann Cvetkovich, who writes about feminism, queer theory, and ‘the archive’ alongside the multitude of ‘texts’ that constitute the sites and materials of her inquiries, writes that:

Queer performance creates publics by bringing together live bodies in space, and the theatrical experience is not just about what’s on stage but also who’s in the audience creating community. (2003, p. 9)

Following Cvetckovich’s lead in attending to the live and living bodies in space—whether archival bodies of knowledge or the participants in an archival event—we consider radically re-imagined notions of records, evidence, and archives that emerge when archival records that cross the threshold into the archives are then taken back out into the streets. Bringing the traditional archival paradigm and the pop-up movement into conversation, I offer a close reading of the POP-UP Archives Event of the Arizona Queer Archives, AQA, in collaboration with FARR, a coalition of feminist scholars, artists, and activists of public scholarship. The POP-UP Archives Event was a walking tour and performance of lesbian feminist histories at their historical sites, which continue to go unmarked and unnoticed in everyday life. The POP-UP Archives Event gathered transcripts of the Arizona Queer Archives’ oral history interviews of the Southwest Feminists Reunite Group from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Graduate and undergraduate students then performed transcripts forty years later in those same spaces where lesbian feminist activism had taken place. Through a radical engagement of the archival theory with queer theory—two seemingly disparate frameworks—, I critically attend to the concepts of record, evidence, and archives while developing a place-based pedagogical foundation that influences the circulation of primary and secondary records in and through communities. Through affect and notions of belonging, I analyze the participatory ethos of such archival productions while complicating the terrain of place-based pedagogical practices. Utilizing archival and queer lenses, I seek to outline the variegations of participation through such a playful and ephemeral archival production. The key question that we seek to answer is: What does it mean to perform the archives?

 

Bio

Jamie A. Lee, Assistant Professor of Digital Culture, Information, and Society, School of Information at University of Arizona, attends to critical archival theory and methodologies, multimodal media-making contexts, storytelling, bodies, and ongoing analyses of the ways archives and bodies are mutually constitutive. Her work is intricately woven through the intersections of archival studies, media studies, digital and visual culture, information, and society. Studying hands-on archival work along with archival theory and practice that emerges from community contexts, she engages theories of affect and embodiment, archival and queer theory, haptic visuality, and decolonizing methodologies. Her interdisciplinary approach considers bodies-as-archives and archives-as-bodies in and through shifting temporalities that challenge how we know, produce, and engage archives and their records.

In 2008, Lee founded Arizona’s first LGBTQ archives and, since 2011, has been developing the Arizona Queer Archives through the Institute for LGBT Studies. As one of the key sites of her research, the Arizona Queer Archives is a participatory and hands-on laboratory of sorts where archival theory and practice engage queer theory and queer/ed material lives.

Lee is also Co-PI on the Climate Alliance Mapping Project, CAMP, which is a collaborative counter-mapping project attentive to climate justice in the Schools of Information, Geography (Public Political Ecology), and American Indian Studies to develop a layered mapping tool to display scientific climate data alongside geo-referenced digital stories from communities throughout the Americas experiencing fossil fuel extraction.

Lee is a member of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Institute for LGBT Studies, Affiliated Faculty in the Social, Cultural, Critical Theory (SCCT) Graduate Minor as well as the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies and the School of Geography & Development. She is also International Affiliate in the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.