New Criticals

Of course, no archive is comprehensive. There are feminists (among others) who disagree with FemTechNet; others choose to tackle structures of power differently. These groups and individuals—whether by choice or necessity--have a right to be silent, as Carter also noted. While we must remain aware that we are preserving only a “sliver of a sliver of a sliver” of the documentary universe according to Verne Harris, can we aim for a sliver that reflects light(s) from and about other efforts, at the same time that we recognize the voids and silences? “In the archive there is what might be called an absent-presence. What is present in the archives is defined by what is not. And the archival silences are delimited by the archival voices.” How might archival silences be represented digitally, I wonder?

So what of this sliver that I think demands some kind of permanent place in the “documentary universe”? What might the right to be remembered look like? Maria Cotera wrote that her goal for the Chicana por mi Raza digital archive was “to reimagine the archive not as a static repository but as an active site of knowledge production that could realize the emancipatory potential of its central subject, Chicana feminism.” Cotera’s archive project “called into question the very nature of the archive—how it is constituted, what it tells us, who it represents, and how it is engaged for knowledge production.” The static versus active descriptors name the challenges for FemTechNet, I think: control and security versus interaction and risk. Cotera featured Women who Rock, “a re-visioning of archival development as a ‘collaborative project driven and sustained by relationships,’ what they term ‘feminist archivista  praxis.’…[T]he archive is not a site but a relationship—a process of encuentro (encounter) that brings together a cross-generational cohort of students, faculty, and artistic and musical collectives through participatory research, community-based learning, and ‘unconferences’ (staged outside the university).” I love the idea of an encounter, of centering relationships in the archive, though I myself don’t have the skills to make that happen digitally.