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Michelle Caswell
Dr. Michelle Caswell

Keynote Speaker at the Digitizing Hidden Collections Symposium

We’re delighted to announce that Dr. Michelle Caswell will keynote the 2022 Digitizing Hidden Collections Symposium on October 12, 2022. 

Session Details

Title: “So that Future Organizers Won’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel”: Activating Digital Archives for Liberatory Uses

Grounded in the emerging field of critical archival studies, this talk will look toward the radical politics of independent, minoritized identity-based community archives to envision new liberatory possibilities for memory work. 

Based on participant observation and interviews with users at community archives sites, the talk will explore how communities activate digital collections to build solidarities across and within communities, trouble linear progress narratives, and disrupt cycles of oppression. Caswell will introduce a new concept, corollary records, to describe the activation of archives that document a precedented moment in time, that is a time in which the same or similar oppressions that are currently occurring have also previously occurred. 

She will then argue that at their most useful, records can be activated in corollary moments in the present, so that community members can learn activist tactics and strategies and get inspiration to keep going. “We have been here before, we have survived this before, we have resisted before,” corollary records assert, “here’s how.” She will then give concrete examples of archives catalyzing liberatory uses of corollary records through artists and activist residency programs, advocacy efforts, and community-led mutual aid projects. Caswell will explore the temporal, representational, and material aspects of liberatory memory work, ultimately arguing that archival disruptions in time and space should be neither about the past nor the future, but about the liberatory affects and effects of memory work in the present. 


About Michelle

Michelle Caswell, PhD, (she/her) is a Professor of Archival Studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where she also holds a joint appointment with Asian American studies. Her work in critical archival studies engages how individuals and communities activate archives to forge identities, to produce feelings of belonging, and to organize against oppression. Caswell directs a team of students at UCLA’s Community Archives Lab (, which explores the ways that independent, identity-based memory organizations document, shape, and provide access to the histories of minoritized communities, with a particular emphasis on understanding their affective, political, and artistic impact. In 2008, together with Samip Mallick, Caswell co-founded the South Asian American Digital Archive (, an online repository that documents and provides access to the stories of South Asian Americans. She is the author of two books: Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work (Routledge, 2021) and Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory and the Photographic Record in Cambodia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), as well as more than three dozen peer-reviewed articles. Her work has defined and refined core concepts in critical archival studies, including archival imaginaries, community archives, imagined records, symbolic annihilation, radical empathy, survivor-centered archives, and feminist standpoint appraisal. 
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