In this paper Marika Cifor intervenes from an archival studies perspective in a complex debate between scholars of new materialism and feminist theory. New materialist scholars have forcefully critiqued feminist scholarship for its “flight from the material” that may have foreclosed vital attention to “lived material bodies and evolving corporeal practices” (Alaimo and Hekman 2009, 3). Cifor traces a series of her own encounters with bodily remains and stains in LGBTQ archives and collections. Such records include Harvey Milk’s bloody garments and Samuel Steward’s collection of samples of his lovers’ hair. Through these archival encounters Cifor develops the new lens of liveliness to argue that such bodily matter animates and is animated because of its archival context. Liveliness offers a novel approach to new materialism as a productive means for archival and feminist scholars and practicing archivists to articulate how matter itself, including bodily matter, is animate and imbued with a particular kind of vitality and affective force. Approaching these archival records as lively emphasizes how feminist scholarly research and practice in archives can be guided by and interrelated with the materiality of the bodies, objects, and spaces that constitute them. Liveliness in turn illustrates how archives themselves are vigorous and changeable.
Alaimo, Stacy, and Susan Hekman. 2009. “Introduction: Emerging Models of Materiality in Feminist Theory.” In Material Feminism, edited by Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman, 1-20. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Marika Cifor is PhD Candidate in Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she is also pursuing certificates in Gender Studies and the Digital Humanities. Her research interests include affect, community archives, queer and feminist theories, bodies and embodiment, and digital cultures. Her critical archival studies dissertation is a qualitative examination of nostalgia, representation and the records of HIV/AIDS activism. Together with Anne J. Gilliland, Cifor is guest editor of a special issue of Archival Science on “Affect and the Archive, Archives and their Affects” and is an editor of InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies. Her work has been published in TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, The American Archivist, Archival Science, Archivaria, Archives and Records, and InterActions.