Queer archives/archival queers

Charles E. Morris, K. J. Rawson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

22 Scopus citations


In 2006, Charles E. Morris III lamented that "the archive itself . . . has yet to be subjected to sustained critical-rhetorical reflection by scholars in this discipline" ("Archival Turn" 113). Recently, however, the figure of the archive has been looming increasingly large in rhetorical studies, including a number of essays published that same year in Morris's guest-edited forum in Rhetoric and Public Affairs; Gesa E. Kirsch and Liz Rohan's 2008 edited collection, Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process; and Alexis E. Ramsey et al.'s 2010 collection, Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition, as well as a number of other recent publications on archiving (Glenn and Enoch; L'Eplattenier; Ranney; Rawson, "Accessing Transgender"). Although archival work has a long history, "the archive itself" is increasingly becoming a recognized and concentrated site of critical and theoretical regard in rhetorical studies. Despite this critical attention, however, rhetorical scholars have been much slower in responding to the "queer turn," despite a decade of visible scholarship in this field and twenty-five years' worth of influential scholarship in the academy writ large (Morris, Introduction; Alexander and Rhodes; Alexander and Wallace). We believe that one useful means of addressing this ongoing disciplinary heteronormative neglect and omission, and contributing to the project of rhetorical historiography, is to chart and mobilize queer archives and archival queers. In other words, we aim to make good on Michelle Ballif's claim that "what is at stake, then, in re/dressing histories is the production of new narratives, new discourses, new idioms" ("Re/Dressing" 96). Our collective attention to archives has developed out of the lineage of revisionist rhetorical historiography, with its critical shift from historical subjects to historical production itself. More recently in this lineage of "Archivists with Attitude" came the significant realization and revelation that the archive is a key site of that historical production, materially and ideologically constitutive and thus consequential. As Wendy Sharer has argued, rhetorical historiography should always (re)consider what an archive is and does, how it means and matters, and for whom: Researchers should consider both the materiality of the objects from which we might derive "new" knowledge, and the physical construction of collections containing these bodies of knowledge. We cannot afford to ignore the various material processes-acquisition, appraisal, collection management, description, indexing, preservation, oxidation, and deaccession-that affect the corpus of historical records on which we may be able to construct diverse and subversive narratives to challenge previous, exclusionary accounts of rhetoric. ("Disintegrating" 124). Cara A. Finnegan punctuates this repositioning of the archive by asserting that all rhetorical scholars, before they can engage its contents, "need to critically engage the archive itself" (118). Where we encounter rhetorical history and how it is embodied-the archival manifest-are inseparable from the tales and "truths" that comprise it. In this spirit we offer our theoretical and critical exploration of queer archives and archival queers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTheorizing Histories of Rhetoric
PublisherSouthern Illinois University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780809332113
ISBN (Print)0809332116, 9780809332106
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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