Embodied Experiences of Archival Spaces

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 8:45 AM - 10:15 AM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: LGBTQ History and Queer Studies; Race; Theory and Methodology


Much of our research as historians is conducted in archives. However, we rarely consider the embodied experience of this work. Archival spaces are layered, often fraught, with the weight of history. In this participatory roundtable focusing on but not limited to ethnic and queer history, we hope to more fully consider the exclusionary aspects of traditional archival practice and how new forms of archival space and engagement might work to strengthen the inclusion and equitable advancement of all historians.

Session Participants

Chair: Colin R. Johnson, Indiana University Bloomington
Colin R. Johnson is Associate Professor of Gender Studies and American Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, where he is also affiliated with the Department of History, the Human Biology Program, and the Kinsey Institute. He is the author of Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America (Temple UP, 2013), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and co-editor of Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies (New York UP, 2016), which was named a CHOICE Academic Outstanding Title of 2016. Johnson’s next book project, tentatively entitled Unfriendly Thresholds: Misanthropy and Sexual Difference in American Culture, examines the historical imbrication of discourses surrounding anti-sociality and sexual perversion in the United States.

Panelist: Adrienne Adams, University of Southern California
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Adrienne Adams (they/them) is a PhD student in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Their doctoral research employs archival and oral histories methods to trace black queer and trans print cultures across the Americas.

Prior to entering USC, they served as the 2018-20 Emerging Arts Professional Fellow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a 2nd grade classroom assistant, and arts administrator/in-house archivist for a LA-based HIV/AIDS nonprofit.

Adams’ work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Ford Foundation, Point Foundation, and Elton John AIDS Foundation. Their publications appear or are forthcoming in American Quarterly, the Oxford African American Studies Center, and Spit and Spider Press. They have spoken at national and international venues like the London Metropolitan Archives, 198 Contemporary Art in London, University of Manchester, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Tom of Finland Foundation, and Broad Art Museum.

Panelist: Kirsten Lise Fermaglich, Michigan State University
Kirsten Fermaglich is Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Michigan State University. Her most recent book, A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America (NYU, 2018) was awarded the Saul Viener Book Prize by the American Jewish Historical Society in June 2019. Fermaglich is also the author of American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares: Early Holocaust Consciousness and Liberal America, 1957-1965 (Brandeis University Press, 2006) and the co-editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (2013), with Lisa Fine. She is currently co-editor of the journal, American Jewish History, along with Daniel Soyer and Adam Mendelsohn. Her current research focuses on the migration of Jewish academics to college towns throughout the South and Midwest in the years after World War II.

Panelist: Vic Overdorf, Indiana University, Bloomington
Vic Overdorf is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Their work examines the incarceration of queer people during the early to mid-20th century and intersections with institutional discourses of violence. Their most recent work “Archives of ‘Sexual Deviance’: Recovering the Queer Prisoner” was published in the Journal of Feminist Scholarship (2022). Their forthcoming dissertation looks specifically at a population of gay men incarcerated at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary for the crime of sodomy.

Panelist: Anna Pegler-Gordon, Michigan State University
Anna Pegler-Gordon (she/her) teaches in Michigan State University’s James Madison College, an undergraduate residential college specializing in the interdisciplinary study of public policy, as well as the Asian Pacific American Studies program. Her research and teaching interests include Asian American history, immigration and citizenship policy, visual culture and K-12 education. Pegler-Gordon recently published Closing the Golden Door: Asian Migration and the Hidden History of Exclusion at Ellis Island (University of North Carolina Press, 2021). Her first book, In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy (University of California Press, 2009) won the Immigration and Ethnic History Society’s Theodore Saloutos prize. Prior to earning her doctorate, Pegler-Gordon worked in museums, and she continues to stay engaged in the fields of public history and K-12 history teaching.

Panelist: Li Wei Yang, The Huntington
Li Wei Yang is Curator of Pacific Rim Collections at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. He was part of The Huntington, Los Angeles Public Library, and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles team that curated Stories and Voices from L.A. Chinatown, an outdoor exhibit located in L.A. Chinatown’s Central Plaza and online in 2021. Li Wei’s next exhibition, Printed in 1085, will focus on The Huntington’s oldest printed book, a Chinese Buddhist canon, and is scheduled to go on view in late 2023. His first Huntington exhibition, Y.C. Hong: Advocate for Chinese American Inclusion, on view in 2015, was the library’s first dedicated show on Chinese American history. From 2008 to 2014, he held the positions of Institutional Archivist and Project Archivist at the Huntington. He received his MSc in History from the University of Edinburgh and MLIS from San Jose State University.