“Democratizing Knowledge: Examining Archives in the Post-custodial Era”

Amy Hester's picture
November 6, 2020 to November 7, 2020
New Jersey, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Archival Science, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Digital Humanities

Dean Hopper Conference 2020 : “Democratizing Knowledge: Examining Archives in the Post-custodial Era”

A virtual conference hosted by Drew University | Friday, November 6th & Saturday, November 7th, 2020

The CFP is now CLOSED, however we welcome attendees to join our conference on Zoom. Please register below:


To acknowledge the archive as a construct is to understand that power, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot has argued, “is constitutive of the story.” Yet, for too long historians have operated as if the archive were a foregone conclusion, ignoring the ways in which history is a narrative shaped as profoundly by omission as by any material presence.

Trouillot is but one of a number of contemporary theorists who’ve challenged inherited archival practice, inspiring new approaches to the archive’s construction. The present post-custodial mode, for example, promises a more collaborative approach, giving voice to those previously silenced by institutional power. Community access to and participation in the archive is prioritized, precluding institutional intervention. Archivists and librarians, among them, Michelle Caswell, Chaitra Powell, Mario H. Ramirez, Samantha Winn, and Jarrett Drake, have produced vital scholarship centered on representation, marginalization, and power in the archive, advancing essential dialogues that will inform future archival praxis and the responsible safeguarding of our collective past.

The eighth annual Dean Hopper Conference seeks to bring into conversation historians, theorists, archivists and collection managers from across a range of disciplines to discuss past practice and imagine novel approaches to the archive. Thinking through the archive, broadly conceived, we ask the following: what is the future of archives? How might new archival practices foster more equitable distribution of resources? Should digital technology be more central to archives and material culture collections, rather than as a mere adjunct? What new risks threaten the production of history going forward? This conference is planned for Saturday, November 7th, 2020 at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. A virtual platform is planned.

Keynote Speakers

Megan Rossman is assistant professor of communications at Purchase College and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Rossman’s films have screened at festivals including DOC NYC and Outfest. Her first feature-length film The Archivettes, explores the founding and development of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the largest collection of materials by and about lesbians. The project was awarded the prestigious Princess Grace Award.

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay is professor of modern culture and media at Brown University. Azoulay’s research and latest book, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (Verso, 2019), focuses on the potential history of the archive, sovereignty, art, and human rights. Potential history, a concept and an approach that she has developed over the last decade, has far-reaching implications for the fields of political theory, archival formations, and photography studies. Her books include: Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography (Verso, 2012) and The Civil Contract of Photography (Zone Books, 2008).