Reanimating Working-Class Writing

In a special issue of Across the Disciplines entitled ‘Unsettling the Archives’, Jessica Pauszek contributes an article entitled Preserving Hope: Reanimating Working-Class Writing through (Digital) Archival Co-Creation. In a section dedicated to ‘Bearing Witness in Unsettling Ways’, Pauszek traces how a working-class writing network, the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers, hoped and tried to preserve their writing for nearly forty years.

Reflecting on her work with the FWWCP, Pauszek writes how “alongside the story of preservation, I need to tell a story about materiality, about the precariousness of building archives with working-class communities when resources are unstable: when there is no archival space, no archivist, little money, and sometimes not even the belief that working-class writing is worthy of publishing, let alone preserving”. Her detailed account of co-creating a digital archive is intended, she notes, “to [make] visible the conditions that enabled and constrained our work”.

Pauszek offers a compelling and theoretically sophisticated account of the specific work with the FWWCP but also highlights the larger framing concerns for all such projects:

Print and digital archives represent the social in/exclusion of people and texts within a discipline as well as within larger communities, and we were committed to continuing the FWWCP/FED’s work through collaborative curation in digital spaces. Such decisions for digital archives link to questions of ethics, in a similar way that Cheryl Glenn and Jessica Enoch (2010) note about traditional print archives. Within Writing Studies, scholars have also argued for the need to explore the decolonization of archival work (Cushman, 2013), the use of digital tools for feminist historiography (Enoch, 2013), the use of multimodality to think across print/digital archival representations (Neal et al., 2013), and the need for accessible user-center interfaces (Potts, 2015). With digital archival work, we must continue to build spaces and practices that encourage the cultural importance of collaboration and preservation, particularly as they allow us to think about how we can expand our processes for and “sites of knowledge making” (Cushman, 2013, p 116), as well as “recente[r] cultural stakeholders” (Ridolfo et al., 2010). Said another way, with the proliferation of digital and archival scholarship, we must find ways to prioritize the knowledges and histories of those we work with.

Read the full article here.

Cover images
From the FWWCP Digital Collection website