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Fifth Annual Cultural Studies Conference: "Versions of the Archive"

Saturday, February 19th, 2000
10:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Indiana Memorial Union - Faculty Club

Organized by Tom Foster and Katrin Sieg

malrauxGiven the importance of cultural studies scholarship in the production of new or alternative archives, cultural studies also functions as an important site for theorizing "the archive" in new ways.  The Fifth Annual Cultural Studies Conference will engage with "Versions of the Archive," the concept of the archive and archival research methods as both encouraging interdisciplinary projects and also as a site of disciplinary conflicts within cultural studies, between competing notions of what constitutes archival research, its value, and its function. 

Three invited participants; Lynne Joyrich, a feminist TV critic from Brown; Mary Layoun, a post-colonial scholar from Wisconsin; and Sue-Ellen Case, from UC-Davis, who's written on new media and questions of sexuality, will join IU faculty and graduate students in three panel discussions followed by an informal discussion.  A description of the panel topics, the conference schedule, and panel participants is included below.

If you plan to participate in these conversations, please register for the conference using the on-line registration form or by sending this information via e-mail to  Don't forget to indicate whether you'd like to receive a short packet of readings related to the panel topics (which will be distributed this week), and whether you plan to stay for lunch.

Conference Schedule

10:30 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. Panel One - Concepts of the "Archive": Interdisciplinary Implications and Disciplinary Tensions

Moderator: Tom Foster (English)
Invited Participant: Lynne Joyrich, Brown University
Interlocutors: Pat Brantlinger (English), Heather Perry (History), Candida Jaquez (Folklore)

To what extent does archival research encourage interdisciplinary research projects?  On the other hand, what different concepts of the archive circulate in different disciplines?  Can or should we reconcile these differences?  Is the archive only a textual metaphor, or can the concept of the archive be adapted to ethnographic research, audience studies, and work on material culture?  Does the concept of the archive reproduce distinctions betwen high and popular, dominant, sub- and counter-cultures? Is there an archive of everyday life, or are concepts of the archive necessarily based on the model of the library or the museum?  What problems emerge in attempts to do archival research on relatively ephemeral forms of popular culture, which traditionally have not been preserved or "archived"?  What are the limits of archival research?  How do concepts of the archive underlie key theoretical concepts in cultural studies, such as cultural heritage or memory, and subjectivity or cultural identity?  Is Derrida right that "psychoanalysis would not have been the same . . . if e-mail . . . had existed" as the basis for a concept of the archive, rather than the book (Archive Fever 17)?

12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.  Buffet Lunch 

1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Panel Two - Recovering and (De)Classifying Archives: Lessons for Cultural Studies

Moderator: Pat Brantlinger (English)
Invited Participant: Mary Layoun, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Interlocutors: Bob Ivie (Communication & Culture), Maria Bucur-Deckard (History), Liesl Allingham (Germanic Studies), Nick Cullather (History)

In the decade since the end of the Cold War, historians and cultural critics have undertaken the work of contesting and reconfiguring accepted knowledge about a world that was divided into antagonistic blocs for nearly half a century.  Much of this reconstruction was made possible through access to long-locked archives, from the East German secret police's vaults, and the archives of the Kremlin, to the files of the Nazi Lebensborn breeding program.  The memories of Holocaust survivors, as they enter old age, are being assembled and stored electronically on an unprecedented scale.  The 1990s seem to be the age of the limitless and transparent archive, in which the right keyword will retrieve data from the secrecy, duplicity, and conspiratorial darkness of the cold war, into the light of the new world order.  We want to ask what it is that this fantasy of universal access and transparency obscures.  Archival access does not so much make possible a more complete, or finally correct picture of the past, however, but also, of course, raises the question of access and power, as new historical accounts are being composed. What kinds of questions about archives are debated in your discipline? Can we simply "recover" material that was previously "hidden from history," and how do our notions of history change thereby?  What categories of exclusion/inclusion govern disciplinary protocols of storage, transmission, and retrieval?  How can we consider questions of access to cultural texts and technologies?  Who guards access to knowledge, and how is it "classified" in the different senses of the term?
What role should cultural studies play in this process of (de)classifying, studying, and institutionalizing archival knowledges?

3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Break

3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Panel Three - Archival Transformations: New Technologies of Cultural Memory

Moderator: Tom Foster (English) and Katrin Sieg (Germanic Studies)
Invited Participant: Sue-Ellen Case, University of California, Davis
Interlocutors: Helen Gremillion (Gender Studies), Joan Hawkins (Communication & Culture), Cristina Iuli (English), Laura Shackelford (English)

What will the archive become in the next century?  If archives function as technologies of cultural memory, how do technological changes affect the concept of the archive?  How will the shift from print culture to electronic and visual media affect archival research?  Should the World Wide Web be understood as an archive?  In what sense?  What kinds of archives should we be creating, as practitioners of cultural studies? What is the relation of the archive to the construction of subjectivity? To gendered, sexual, class, national identities? Under the heading "Transforming Archives," we want to explore not only the effects new electronic data storage and retrieval systems have on our concepts of knowledge and the way we relate to and construct it, but also how these technological changes transform and embody that "us," our categories of perception, notions of space and identity, the division of motility and meat. How does the architecture of the electronic archive impose new, perhaps more mobile networks of affiliation?  Do we think of insubordinate subjectivities in the virtual age only in terms of hacking and unregulated access?  Do subcultures compose archives through compilations of material and images, or also by restructuring modes of access?

Links to Web Sites recommended by Sue-Ellen Case:

5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Reception