Exciting 'queering the archives' conference coming to Maynooth

Ahead of the conference taking place in Maynooth on May 20, Orla Egan explains what Queering the Archive means to her.

Split photograph of panelists from the Queer Archives conference taking place in Maynooth. On the left is Adela C. Licona, middle is Orla Egan, right is Jamie A. Lee
Image: Adela C. Licona/Orla Egan/Jamie A. Lee

If you ever heard me talking about the work of the Cork LGBT Archive you will, most likely, have heard me quote Jamie A. Lee’s work on Queering the Archive: “I deploy the term queer as a practice and a politics. I use ‘to queer’ as a verb working on and within the archives as an act of intervention, an upsetting of the normative archival structures that continue to uphold and reproduce the hegemonic power dynamics at work to exclude.” Jamie Ann Lee (2015)

Queering the Archive isn’t just about adding in queer topics or items, but it can also be seen as query-ing the concept of what an archive is, what it can contain, how we archive and who can archive. 

This has been so inspiring for me in my work of creating the Cork LGBT Archive as a community archive, doing so with little funding and no formal archival training, but with the support and example of so many other fabulous community archives and archival activists. It is why I call myself a Queer Archival Activist.

Jamie A. Lee also emphasises the importance of these connections: “I believe that it’s so important to connect and support other community archives. Sometimes we feel so isolated doing the work of building a community archive. Sure, we have our own communities, but it’s the larger archival networks that help keep us connected to practices that sustain the archives and also us as the often lone archivists. We can learn so much from each other.”

There is a growing field of community archives that have been set up by those who do not see ourselves included in traditional archives and whose voices have not been heard.  I established the Cork LGBT Archive because I knew there was a rich history of LGBT activism that wasn’t visible and accessible – I work to ensure that Cork Queer History is impossible to ignore!

Also in the Irish context, Sara R Phillips does amazing work in gathering and sharing Irish trans history. Black and Irish are creating an amazing repository of stories of black and mixed-race Irish people. Oein de Bhairduin is working on creating an Irish Traveller archive in the National Museum of Ireland.

Given the importance of Queering the Archive, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Jamie A. Lee and their partner Adela C. Licona were coming to Ireland. I was even more excited when they both agreed to speak at a Seminar on Archiving Bodies: Digital Archives, Feminist and Queer Praxis that I am organising as part of my work with Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities (FSFDH) in Maynooth on May 20.

FSFDH is funded by UKRI-AHRC and the Irish Research Council. It aims to address the inherent and inherited heteronormative, gendered and racist bricks and mortar of Digital Humanities; highlight intersectional feminist methods and encourage and facilitate wider access to digital humanities and cultural heritage. I have recently taken on the role of Feminist Digital Humanities Community Coordinator with FSFDH.

In advance of their trip to Ireland, I spoke with Jamie and Adela about their connections with Ireland and the forthcoming seminar.

Jamie A. Lee and Adela C. Licona have been life partners and collaborators for nearly two decades. “We are thrilled to be coming to Ireland and have this opportunity to present at Maynooth University as part of the Full Stack Feminism Seminar on Archiving Bodies: Digital Archives, Feminist and Queer Praxis.”

Jamie is a professor in the School of Information at the University of Arizona. Their work focuses on archives, community archives, communities, bodies, and multimedia productions. “I engage storytelling as a method in archiving and my research. I do a lot of work with oral histories and digital storytelling and train community folks on how to do this.

“I facilitate the Digital Storytelling & Oral History Lab at the University of Arizona. Before entering academia, I was a documentary filmmaker and produced non-profit and corporate media since 1991, so I learned a lot with both analogue and digital media. I think that my research into archives, then, continues to centre both digital and analogue and their politics and ongoing effects on communities.”

Adela is Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona where she served as Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies and as Vice Chair of the Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory graduate minor. She was affiliated faculty in Gender and Women’s Studies, Institute of the Environment, and Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona.  “My research and teaching interests include space and visual rhetorics, cultural, ethnic, gender, and sexuality studies, race, borderlands studies, social justice media, environmental justice, feminist pedagogy, community literacies, arts-based inquiry, and action-oriented research.”

On a visit to Ireland in 2015 Adela “fell in love with the landscape and the people I met. I appreciated the activist spirit I encountered and learned about at the time.” Jamie and Adela are both delighted to be back in Ireland and will spend three weeks here doing archival research and writing.

Jamie and Adela will be speaking at the Full Stack Feminism Seminar on Archiving Bodies: Digital Archives, Feminist and Queer Praxis in Maynooth on May 20. 

Jamie “will be talking a bit about my book Producing the Archival Body and my experiences in founding and directing the Arizona Queer Archives, the first LGBTQ archives in the state of Arizona.”

Adela “will be speaking on a practice I have developed that I name ‘art as coalitional gesture.’ This means to bring together writers and artists, music makers, gardeners, and dreamers to co-imagine and co-create a world we want to live in, can live in, together. It is queer worldmaking… The creative work I am doing is contributing to the building of community archives as sites for shared artistry, relations, and resources.”

Alongside presentations from Jamie and Adela, Sharon Webb (University of Sussex and UK Principal Investigator FSFDH), Jeneen Naji (Maynooth University and Irish Principal Investigator of FSFDH) and I will be talking about the Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities project, while Lorraine Grimes will be discussing the Archiving the Eighth project. The seminar is hosted by Maynooth University and organised by FFSDH in collaboration with the Digital Repository of Ireland.

Come join us, in person or online, at the Full Stack Feminism Seminar on Archiving Bodies: Digital Archives, Feminist and Queer Praxis in Maynooth on May 20. Tickets are free and can be booked here

Orla Egan is the founder of Cork LGBT Archive and is the Feminist Digital Humanities Community Coordinator with the Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities.

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