This seminar explores approaches to archival research in the field of African American studies. Archives, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot reminds us, are not passive repositories of historical materials. Rather, the archive as an institution authorizes particular narratives about the past, while simultaneously rendering other narratives as illegitimate or even “unthinkable”. Working at the intersection of African American studies and critical archival studies, we will interrogate the archive as a site of racialized knowledge production and consider how archival sources inform historical and contemporary understandings of Black life. We will wrestle with the limitations of the archive—the silences, excesses, and (mis)representations—while also engaging with recent scholarship that addresses the methodological, theoretical, and ethical challenges of archival research in innovative ways. In doing so, we will reckon with what Saidiya Hartman characterizes as the “task of writing the impossible,” the effort to reconstruct the stories of Black people from fragmentary traces in the official record. Invited presenters for this yearlong seminar include scholars and archivists working in the fields of literary and cultural studies, anthropology, history, political science, African American studies, and digital humanities.
Erica Williams is the Chair of Sociology and Anthropolgy at Spelman College and an Associate Professor. She earned her Ph.D and M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University and her B.A. from New York University. Her research has focused on the cultural and sexual politics of the transnational tourism industry in Salvador, Brazil.
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The seminars are only available to the Princeton University students, faculty, and staff. To register, please contact Shelby Sinclair at email@example.com.