Stories That Matter: Feminist Methodologies in the Archive

This symposium at the ICA on 22 November at 2pm explores whether feminist methodologies make a difference to the kinds of stories that can be told using archives in the expanded sense, i.e. actual archives, virtual archives and/or other concrete sites of encounter which generate historiographical work.

In this work, a tension has often existed between the desire to establish feminist epistemologies and at the same time to attend to feminist ontologies – in other words between knowledge and experience. This is nowhere more so than in the archive which has traditionally been considered as a repository of the past that affords a 'true'construction of it. However, this traditional idea has also been the basis from which women have been occluded from history. Added to this, it also maintains the subjectivity of the researcher/historiographer as neutral thereby hiding the ideological assumptions that underlie this kind of work.

The symposium follows feminist interrogation of these assumptions by adopting Donna Haraway's methodological approach to research as 'situated knowledge'. Leading practitioners of feminist historiography from both art history, Prof. Griselda Pollock, and the social sciences, Prof. Clare Hemmings and Prof. Maria Tamboukou, will present how their particular feminist methodologies have made a difference to their mutually respective sites of 'archival' encounter. Essential to the convening of this symposium has been Pollock's concept of the virtual feminist museum as a 'becoming futurity', Hemmings's emphasis on citational practices and textual affect, Tamboukou's concept of archival research as intra-actions between phenomena. The speakers ask what differences these new affordances allow for accounting for the past or reactivating its memory in the present? How do feminist pasts engage future readers? An unlikely feminist, Guy Debord, in his infamous Society of the Spectacle posits the question: what would a living archive be as opposed to the archive as the custodian of the dead time of history which merely administers it rather than makes it available for use? Do feminist methodologies in the archive (as museum, publication, or documented record) provide methods for resisting the administration of history? How might we 'break open' the archive to listen to and disseminate its contradictory voices so that they may resonate with the present thereby making it available for use for contemporary generations of feminists, men and women?

The full programme and link to book tickets can be found on the ICA website.

This symposium marks the publication of the anthology Twenty Years of MAKE Magazine: Back to the Future of Women's Art edited by Maria Walsh (Senior Lecturer in Art History and Theory, Chelsea) and Mo Throp (Associate Researcher, CCW), published by I.B. Tauris, which will be launched at the end of the day. The symposium will also include a presentation by Walsh and Throp on their research and it will be chaired by Dr. Catherine Grant, whose work on queer re-enactment addresses the retelling of the past for future generations. The symposium is funded by The CCW Graduate School Staff Fund.


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