Assessing the Affective Impact of Community Archives: A Toolkit, UCLA Community Archives Lab
For this colloquium we invited activist, archivist and critical archival scholar Michelle Caswell who builds her practice, theorizing and writing in large parts on collaboration with community-based archivists in projects such as Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) or South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA).

From this specific work Michelle has arrived at one of her core questions: How can digital archival practices interrogate, interrupt and repair structural inequities rather than replicate those reflected in the original archival records? “Now, more than ever” she argues, “we need a power analysis, a renewed commitment to the principles of care, transparency, reciprocity, relationality, autonomy, contextualization, long-term investment, equity, and repair.”

The colloquium, joint by Michelle online, will address potential challenges for critical feminist archiving practice – for example, how to make care ethics an integral part of every stage of the digital archival process, not just “sprinkled on top at the end (Caswell)”.

Based on her text “Digital Feminist Care Ethics: Assessing the Web of Archival Relationships” (B-N-L, June 2024) students of MA Experimental Design have beforehand developed questions put at Michelle. The conversation will be recorded, edited and added to the resource collection Teaching the Radical Catalogue – a Syllabus.


Michelle Caswell is an archivist and academic based in Los Angeles, known for her work with community archives and approaches to archival practice rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression. She is a Professor of Archival Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Co-Director of UCLA’s Community Archives Lab and the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), which collects, preserves, and shares stories of South Asian Americans. She also worked with a team of community-based archivists at Texas After Violence Project (TAVP), a public memory archive that fosters deeper understandings of the impacts of state violence on individuals, families, and communities.

In her most recent book, Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work, Michelle argues that archivists can and should do more to disrupt white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy beyond the standard liberal archival solutions of more diverse collecting and more inclusive description. She uncovers how dominant western archival theories and practices are oppressive by design, while looking toward the radical politics of community archives to envision new liberatory theories and practices.