New out: Producing the Archival Body

“What can the body do in and for archives?” is the provocation that Jamie A. Lee sets out in Producing the Archival Body. Newly released in the Routledge Studies in Archives series edited by James Lowry, Lee’s book brings critical archival theory together with queer theory to argue for a new understanding of how archival subjects are produced. Central to this project is an engagement with bodies. As they write in the opening chapter:

What can a focus on the body tell us about ways of being in and with the past? What can recentering the body in archives offer to individual and collective memory-making in time and space? What can the body do in and for archives? And what can the archives, in turn, do in and for bodies? (p. 5)

Lee proceeds via a series of case studies to explore how archives and bodies are mutually constitutive, developing a novel account of how bringing questions of bodies and embodiment to bear on archival theory can make us think differently about archival bodies. The result is a beautifully nuanced challenge to our thinking, one that Lee characterises in the following manner:

Through a series of critical interventions and reimagined storytelling practices, I have illuminated the archives and its generative and liberatory potentials. Through my hands-on work, I offer insights into both methodological and theoretical approaches to archives and bodies to highlight their complex and relational productions…I have practiced a critical archival studies approach to archives here to tell a different story; to actively and emphatically disrupt the taken-for-granted notions and practices that have upheld archival power and its work to perpetuate historic hierarchies that function to continue to oppress those who do not fit into named categories and standardized descriptions…Life is complex and complicated; bodies, too. The archival body is no exception. (p. 161)

Table of contents:

Introduction: Producing the Archival Body  

Part I: Body Parts –  1. Archival Underpinnings;  2. Time;  3. Bodies  

Part II: Bodies in Action –  4. Relational Reciprocity: Bodies As Archives / Archives As Bodies;  5. Bodies Producing Archives Producing Bodies: The Power of Storytelling 

CODA: The Moving Body

Producing the Archival Body  book cover

ISBN 9780367182199