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Unsettling Archival Research

Unsettling Archival Research

Engaging Critical, Communal, and Digital Archives

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Edited by Gesa E. Kirsch, Romeo García, Caitlin Burns Allen, and Walker P. Smith


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
338 pages, 6 x 9, 26 illustrations


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About the Book

A collection of accessible, interdisciplinary essays that explore archival practices to unsettle traditional archival theories and methodologies.
What would it mean to unsettle the archives? How can we better see the wounded and wounding places and histories that produce absence and silence in the name of progress and knowledge? Unsettling Archival Research sets out to answer these urgent questions and more, with essays that chart a more just path for archival work.
Unsettling Archival Research is one of the first publications in rhetoric and writing studies dedicated to scholarship that unsettles disciplinary knowledge of archival research by drawing on decolonial, Indigenous, antiracist, queer, and community perspectives. Written by established and emerging scholars, essays critique not only the practices, ideologies, and conventions of archiving, but also offer new tactics for engaging critical, communal, and digital archiving within and against systems of power. Contributors reflect on efforts to unsettle and counteract racist, colonial histories, confront the potentials and pitfalls of common archival methodologies, and chart a path for the future of archival research otherwise. Unsettling Archival Research intervenes in a critical issue: whether the discipline’s assumptions about the archives serve or fail the communities they aim to represent and what can be done to center missing voices and perspectives. The aim is to explore the ethos and praxis of bearing witness in unsettling ways, carried out as a project of queering and/or decolonizing the archives.
Unsettling Archival Research takes seriously the rhetorical force of place and wrestles honestly with histories that still haunt our nation, including the legacies of slavery, colonial violence, and systemic racism.


Gesa E. Kirsch is professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Soka University of America. Her books include Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies; Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process; and Ethical Dilemmas in Feminist Research.
Romeo García is assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at the University of Utah and coeditor of Rhetorics Elsewhere and Otherwise.
Caitlin Burns Allen is a doctoral candidate in rhetoric and composition at the University of Louisville. Her work has appeared in Ethics and Representation in Feminist Rhetorical Inquiry and Peitho.
Walker P. Smith holds a PhD in rhetoric and composition from the University of Louisville.

Contributions by Jennifer Almjeld, Sally F. Benson, Jean Bessette, María P. Carvajal Regidor, Lynée Lewis Gaillet, Tarez Samra Graban, Wendy Hayden, Deborah Hollis, Jackie M. James, Amy J. Lueck, Kathryn Manis, Nadia Nasr, Kalyn Prince, Liz Rohan, Jessica A. Rose, Rebecca Schneider, Pamela Takayoshi, and Patty Wilde. 


“This book brings together an exceptionally powerful collection of essays dedicated to revealing and amending the epistemic erasures of imperial archives. Chapters present alternatives to concepts often taken for granted in archival research, they reckon with archival methodologies, and they illustrate pluriversal archival efforts and pedagogies. Important and timely, Unsettling Archival Research promises to have lasting impact on rhetoric and writing studies.”—Ellen Cushman, author of The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance

“My approach to archival work is significantly changed after this invigorating read. This collection succeeds in unsettling archives and researchers in the best ways: sharing critiques and tough questions of the field while also providing a toolkit for navigating the disruption in archives and with archivists and students. Blending a range of theories with rich and varied archival examples and classroom practices, both emerging and experienced scholars upend disciplinary knowledge and Western assumptions of neutrality, memory, and history.”—Charlotte Hogg, coeditor of Persuasive Acts: Women’s Rhetorics in the Twenty-First Century
“This carefully constructed collection offers a welcome next step in complicating our understanding of what constitutes both archive and archival research through diverse case studies and theoretical contributions drawing on antiracist, decolonial, feminist, indigenous, and queer theories and methods. Unsettling Archival Research will assist both emerging and experienced researchers to develop more inclusive and self-reflective practices.”—David Gold, author of Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947

“Comprised of fifteen seminal contributions of original research and experiential insight/experience, Unsettling Archival Research: Engaging Critical, Communal, and Digital Archives is especially recommended as a core addition for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections and studies lists for Library/Information Science, Library Management, and General Library Information Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.”—James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review's Library Bookwatch