Complete Story

Workshop 7: Archival Power

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

rsa logo

Workshop Leaders:

Jessica Enoch, University of Maryland:
Pamela VanHaitsma, Penn State University:

Power imbricates all archival work. As Jean Bessette, E. Cram, Jay Dolmage, Cheryl Glenn, Robin Jensen, Malea Powell, Charles Morris, Cristina Ramírez, and K.J. Rawson have made clear, power animates both brick-and-mortar and digital archives. Power inflects the full spectrum of archival work from conducting research to analyzing and even building collections. This understanding of archival power is especially exigent for scholars investigating the practices of marginalized groups. Archives have the power to reveal, conceal, or condition evidence of rhetorical significance produced by those often dismissed within dominant rhetorical traditions. This workshop centers attention on archival power, exploring how to work with archives to engage questions of race, nation, gender, sexuality, language, wellness, and ability in service of social justice. 

To prepare for our time together, workshop participants will read a collection of essays that discuss and carry out varied archival practices. Each participant will share with the group a self-selected archival finding—an archival artifact, a component of archival infrastructure, a draft of writing about archives—and identify the concern or problem that this finding raises. Informed by the readings, our collective discussions will center on brainstorming about how to work with the archival findings and navigate problems so that we can take up the kind of research described above.

Questions that will drive our time together include: How do we address silences, gaps, and erasures in the archives? How do we leverage language diversity and translation in our research? How do we piece together and make sense of disparate artifacts? How do we discern rhetorical significance? How do we frame archival findings for new audiences? How do we deliver them, whether through traditional academic publications or other more public and digital means? Ultimately, how do we use our findings to enact archival power that is rooted in social justice?

Jessica EnochJessica Enoch is Professor of English and Director of the Academic Writing Program at the University of Maryland. Her recent publications include Domestic Occupations: Spatial Rhetorics and Women’s Work; Mestiza Rhetorics: An Anthology of Mexicana Activism in the Spanish-Language Press, 1887-1922 (co-edited with Cristina Ramírez), Women at Work: Rhetorics of Gender and Labor (co-edited with David Gold), and Retellings: Opportunities for Feminist Research in Rhetoric and Composition Studies (co-edited with Jordynn Jack).


Pamela VanHaitsma Pamela VanHaitsma is an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University, where she also serves as Associate Director of the Center for Humanities and Information. She is the author of Queering Romantic Engagement in the Postal Age: A Rhetorical Education (U of South Carolina P, 2019). Her work has appeared in Advances in the History of Rhetoric, College Composition and Communication, Peitho, QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Rhetoric Review, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly, among others.

Printer-Friendly Version