Diversity Committee funds seminar on social justice

UMSI and the Institute for the Humanities hosted Black Bodies, Social Justice and the Archive, an open seminar on the relationships between the new conceptions of the archive and the advancement of social justice causes in the United States. The all-day seminar was held March 8, 2017. About 40 students, faculty, and archivists attended the event.

As our country struggles with the rejection of facts, expertise, and historical perspective, it seems that progress in addressing structural and overt racism, police brutality, and inequitable incarceration is impossible without a critical interrogation of what an archive is, where it lives or dies, and how it should persist and be used. Each speaker brought a distinctive mix of personal experience, political perspective, and scholarly insight to the task of inspiring a deeper understanding of these issues. 

UC-Riverside doctoral student Bergis Jules and Princeton digital archivist (and UMSI alum) Jarret Drake described their work to create online archives of evidence of police brutality. UCLA doctoral student Stacy Wood presented her research on the challenges of collecting digital material, such as body cam footage. Their work brings into stark relief the often competing perspectives of institutionally based archives and community-driven documentation projects.

Three presentations challenged the representation of black bodies in digital environments. UCLA assistant professor Safiya Umoja Noble presented her new research on the remediated misperceptions of race in commercial social media platforms. University of Alabama assistant professor Tonia Sutherland demonstrated the persistence of souvenirs of lynchings and other publicly witnessed racial violence through history and into digital media representations. University of Wisconsin doctoral student Doria D. Johnson told a spell-binding story of her efforts to find restitution for her family one hundred years after her great grandfather was lynched by a mob in South Carolina. Her scholarship weaves innovative genealogical research methods with a critical investigation of the absences found in the formal historical record.

The seminar opened eyes but also illustrated how important it is to see social justice from the perspective of those on the receiving end of systemic racism. 

Paul Conway, Associate Professor
School of Information

Posted April 12, 2017