Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo - CONFERENZE, Women and the Silent Screen Conference

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The Archive Gone Viral
Kay Armatage

Last modified: 2010-05-28

Abstract


In preparation for a paper about my experience of the archive for the 2002 Women and the Silent Screen Conference in Santa Cruz, I tried to find sources that might help me out theoretically. Susan Stewart’s On Longing (1993) was there, but I couldn’t find much else. I remained excited about pursuing the archive from a feminist, corporialist and affective perspective. I joined archivist listservs to check in on their conversations and ask them about follow-up sources; I tried to organize a conference but couldn’t get funding. Then I gave up. When I finished my book on Nell Shipman, I left the archive behind - I had never thought of myself as an historian anyway. So I moved on to a new interest, film festivals. Damn the luck: once again I found myself in the archive - or lack of an archive - as I lamented in the paper I presented in Stockholm 2008.

 

Here we are again, and questions of the archive now seem to consume the academic world. In the modern era, the archive—official or personal—has become the most significant means by which historical knowledge and memory are collected, stored, and recovered. The archive has thus emerged as a key site of inquiry. In the last three years, an enormous scholarly resource of new studies has emerged: books about archives and their role in shaping new lineages and new histories; how archives around the world are constructed, policed, manipulated, and experienced; the critique of their absences, partial or contradictory sources; and the passions that haunt us in our search for our own past. Contesting the archive, reading against the grain of the archive, and the search for what has not been collected seem to be methodologies most suited to scholars in women’s film history.


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