Jamie Ann Lee, Tucson, USA: Queer Imaginings of the Archive

"For those of us committed to critically intervening in and opening up the traditional archival constructs while developing queer/ed archival practices, we can see that these traditional practices run the risk of reproducing sexual normativities and social divisions that reflect instead of intervene in social hierarchies."

The Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona
Jamie Ann Lee is a doctoral student in Information Resources and Library Science with a Gender & Women's Studies minor at the University or Arizona. In this essay she talks about the possibilities of queering LGBTI archives and lirbraries. Drawing from her experiences at the "The Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project", she argues that "in considering a queer/ed archive, we must first recognize our complicated and contradictory ways of being, knowing, and living in order to create a space of access that can be creative, fertile, ambivalent, fearful, and hopeful while still holding onto its complexities."

How do you think could and should archives be queered? And what do you think of the Jamie Ann Lee's use of the concept of haunting, "an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known, sometimes very directly, sometimes more obliquely"?

queer imaginings of the archive
Jamie Ann Lee
University of Arizona
Spring 2012

“Since variants desire to be accepted by society, it behooves them to assume community responsibility… For only as they make positive contributions to the general welfare can they expect acceptance and full assimilation into the communities in which they live.” 
Mattachine Society, 1956

“Respectability, on a straight society’s terms, was the price for admission.” 
Deborah Gould, Moving Politics

            Over the past four years while meeting and interviewing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people for the “Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project,” I have had to take a closer look at my line of questioning and how I, too, am implicated in what I have come to understand and experience as a shared storytelling process.  As archives and archivists become the stewards of our individual and collective memories, our conformity to archival norms and practices can be treacherous.  For those of us committed to critically intervening in and opening up the traditional archival constructs while developing queer/ed archival practices, we can see that these traditional practices run the risk of reproducing sexual normativities and social divisions that reflect instead of intervene in social hierarchies.  In this paper, I will incorporate Avery Gordon’s concept of haunting to critically engage oral history interviews and interviewing practices from the “Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project” to consider those in-between spaces where ghostly matter linger within our re-memberd (re)constructions as each of us, when narrating our lives, selects and deselects what we feel needs to be remembered and what needs to be forgotten.  I will argue that, although we may not consciously recognize the force and function of “the politics of respectability at play,” our aspirations to be “normal” are informed, at least in part, by normativizing strategies to regulate our bodies, desires, and the spaces and things through which we make meaning.  Understanding bio-politics as the state’s strategies and practices to regulate bodies and peoples and how the dominant societal structures that are in place actually maintain this regulation, how then is it different if the state controls archives or if society’s core values and the dominant structures shape them?  Therefore, in considering a queer/ed archive, we must first recognize our complicated and contradictory ways of being, knowing, and living in order to create a space of access that can be creative, fertile, ambivalent, fearful, and hopeful while still holding onto its complexities.

on what terms?
            Before proceeding, I will introduce the two concepts that will set the groundwork for this paper.  First, I will define the concept of haunting through Gordon’s work and consider its application in other queer literature.  I will then define queer and how it relates to practices and methodologies in and out of the archives.  Later in this paper, I will define the concept of “the politics of respectabilty” and offer a brief tracing of this concept to consider the implications of the force and function of these politics. 
Haunting, according to Gordon (1997), “is an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known, sometimes very directly, sometimes more obliquely” (p. xvi).  For the purpose of this paper utilizing the oral history interviews as primary practices and sites of inquiry, haunting can exist in the archives by filling the empty spaces – the pauses and gaps in our storytelling and then the archival artifact as it is being preserved.  Looking closely at the discourse of Gordon’s haunting, we can recognize movement and animation, but it might be there for just a fleeting moment.  Haunting is a relationship that we enter into, an experience, a connection.  Puar (2007), in her book Terrorist Assemblages: homonationalism in queer times, draws from the concept of Gordon’s haunting throughout her work relating it to the smoothing out of the binary between past and present arguing that “indeed the becoming-future is haunting us” (p. xx).  For me, this temporal collapse urgently shines a light into the deep crevaces of the archives to see how we might frame and re-frame our community stories and artifacts to better understand our human complexities as we look toward the future.  Puar notes: “Haunting is a very particular way of knowing what has happened or is happening.  Being haunted draws us affectively, sometimes against our will and always a bit magically, into the structure of feeling of a reality that we come to experience, not as cold knowledge, but as a transformative recognition” (p. xx).  More importantly, haunting emerges when we come into contact with one another, whether through bodily contact or through our spaces and artifacts.  This haunting may feel external as it nudges our remembering and knowing, but more importantly, this haunting exists in each of us as an embodied (conscious) and deeply embedded emotion (non-conscious). 
To better explain this idea and how it relates to the queer/ed archive and its oral history interviews through their capture by the digital video camera to their dissemination by projection or in virtual online spaces, I call on Laine’s (2006) article “Cinema as Second Skin” to open up how we see and know by shifting the optical visuality to the haptic visuality, in which there is no optical point of view or perspective because we can ‘see’ with our body, our skin, and through touch.  The idea of the haptic may seem unrelated to the materiality and the virtuality of an audiovisual oral history archive accessible in cyberspace, but as I will note throughout this paper, the body and all of its emotions, desires, and vulnerabilities are a part of developing a queer/ed archive, especially as LGBTQ bodies have always been regulated.  Furthermore, Laine uses Benthien’s description of emotions as “’atmospheres poured out into undetermined expanses and often perceptible in spatial directions’” to highlight how cinema, or oral history interviews on video in this case, touches us by means of emotion and that the affect is situated in the skin, but its effects reverberate through the body (p. 101).  It is the skin that leads the eye and the body so that this kind of ‘proprioceptive perception’ that is being stumbled upon through emerging media as feeling the relationship to one’s environment instead of visualizing it.  This sort of inventory-taking of the body and psyche together, in breaths and pauses, falls into the realm of Gould’s affect [1]and Bourdieu’s habitus[2] as we begin to recognize, see, understand, and know how to be, how to feel, and how to be in the world.  Through visualization only, we can become too quick to name.  However, through haptic and bodily encounters, we can also feel and sense in ways that can connect our full selves to our experiences, which I believe include our memories.
Queer, for my purpose here, can be understood as Somerville (2000) defines it: “pointedly critiquing notions of stable lesbian and gay (or “straight) identification” (p. 6).  Therefore, with the oral history archive project in mind, queer/ed approaches may also bring into question notions of truth, evidence, and authenticity as storytelling takes place in front of the camera and then is shared through the computer screen.  According to Puar, “queerness challenge a linear mode of conduction and transmission:  there is not exact recipe for a queer endeavor, no prirori system that taxonomizes the linkages, disruptions, and contradictions into a tidy vessel” (p. xv).  The “preference for ‘queer’ represents, among other things, an aggressive impulse of generalization; it rejects a minoritizing logic of toleration or simple political interest-representation in favor of a more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal” (Smith quoting Warner, p. 41).  Therefore, challenging assumptions and questioning what has been taken for granted as “natural” or “normal” must necessarily carry into archival methodologies.

our stories as evidence
“Interest in notions of a single past, an unattainable but real sense of historical truth, has been displaced by a sense of past plural and of past imperfect, a past that emphasizes the ‘becoming’ rather than the ‘became.’ History, then, is a series of spaces where each individual is free to determine a past – some based on archives and some not.”

Francis X. Blouin, Jr., “Archivists, mediation, and constructs of social memory”

In my research on and work with archives, I have noticed a taken-for-granted and certainly a normalized rigidity that has existed in their constructions, collections, and accessibility.  In his article “What is Past is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift,” Cook (1997), Canadian archival theorist, analyzes the history of archival thought since the publication of The Dutch Manual of 1898[3].  The trends that emerged since that time suggest a shift from a records-focused activity to a process-oriented activity to preserve the collective memory of nations and peoples.  What stands out to me through this research is the discourse of “the official” and how the archivist has played the role of gatekeeper – letting some things (and peoples) enter the archive and keeping some things (and peoples) out.  English theorist Sir Hilary Jenkinson[4] also defended archives as impartial evidence and pushed his vision of the archivist as the state guardian of evidence.  Controversy bubbled up in the archives circles as there was concern about the state ideology tainting and distorting the archival legacy, in which the archives would only reflect the “official” view of history as approved by the state.  Not long after Jenkinson’s push, Hans Boom, German archivist, became the first major voice for a new societal paradigm for archives.  He pushed for society to define their own core values, and argued that these values should be mirrored through archival records.  Even as archives consciously move away from the state, archival theorist, Blouin, Jr. asked how we are to determine what in the archives is authentic and true when archives and archivists generally align with dominant cultural and political aims as defined by evolving attitudes within the constructs of the nation-state.  This question moves me to consider the promise and possibilities of queering archival practices in order to instantiate our human complexities and not just tailor our performances to highlight the “good” while leaving the “bad” deeply embedded in ourselves and out of reach.

being ‘good’ citizens

“History is an ongoing process through which we understand and define ourselves and our lives.”

Michael Bronski, A Queer History of the United States

“It was very dangerous at that time because of our jobs, of course.  That’s why we were very cautious, but we did go to gay bars, but in general, we met in each other’s homes and there was a lot of entertaining and always cocktail parties on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons with a lot of drinking.  In fact, so drinking that we both became alcoholics, but we quit… That was a way of socializing and, of course, we did go to gay bars.  We sneaked in and we hoped that they didn’t raid it.  It was quite dangerous and they would post your name in the papers if you were picked up.  And you lost your jobs.  There were no ifs, ands, or buts.”

Don Sullivan (age 86) interview
Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project
15 March 2010

In the case of an LGBTQ archive that is developed for and with the LGBTQ communities it is representing, I consider what of the dominant ideology haunts LGBTQ peoples and their archival collections. The “invention” of ‘homosexuality’[5] was a key moment for those of us who fall into the non-normative, “abnormal,” or “deviant” categories relating to our bodies and/or our desires. This invention haunts LGBTQ archives which are, by defintion, complex, messy, and in need of critical attention beyond the standard archival practices of digital preservation or media migration.  Although we have been taught to see archives as pillars (imagine: solid and unmoving) of historical evidence, archives are not static, but in constant and fluid motion within a spectrum of pasts, presents, and futures.  Understanding the queer/ed archive, then, as always mobile and forming and re-forming itself as we member and re-member its collections can be a part of the queering process, practice, and methodology.  
As we each enter the queer/ed archive as artifact and as researcher, we should question the spaces that are privileged and those that are silenced.  Science medicalized and pathologized sexuality so that non-normative peoples saw themselves through these pathologies – diseased, ill, abnormal, and less than.  As Bronski (2011), Eaklor (2008), and Stryker (2008) have noted, controlling bodies through cultivating good traits while eliminating the bad traits became a part of the state project to normalize populations.  Through these social purity movements and bio-political strategies, bodies and their non-normative desires and identities continue to exist, but they are disciplined and managed and such discipinings are implicated in the stories that speak our histories. In the process, shame, guilt, fear, and other self-effacing emotions have permeated the process of telling by those of us in these non-normative communities.
In order to help me understand the production of queer archives and the queering of archival practices, the concept of the politics of respectability set out in Gould’s book, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight Against AIDS, pulled me into the oral history interviews I have collected since 2008 to look and listen closely to the stories that were told.  Gould defines a politics of respectability as “almost always deeply ambivalent; concerned above all with social acceptance, it entails efforts of some members of a marginalized group both to disprove dominant stereotypes about the group and to regulate and ‘improve’ the behavior of its members in line with socially approved norms” (p. 89).  Generally, these socially approved norms are heteronormative, which Berlant and Warner (2003) define as:
“the institutions, structures of understanding, and practical orientations that make heterosexuality seem not only coherent – that is, organized as a sexuality – but also privileged.  Its coherence is always provisional, and its privilege can take several (sometimes contradictory) forms:  unmarked, as the basic idiom of the personal and the social; or marked, as a natural state; or projected as an ideal or moral accomplishment” (p. 179-80). 

I would even consider the politics of respectability as the ghostly matter that Gordon argues continues to animate the hauntings, but I would add that this ghostly matter is embedded and permeates much more than we can even identify when we look closely.  A queer/ed archive, then, must complicate and intervene in the force of such politics, but the search for the tactics to do so will necessitate the reconsideration of the history of the politics of respectability. 
During the 1950s and 1960s, the politics of respectability as well as heteronormativity were at play in the development and growth of the early homophile organizations such as The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis.  As Boyd (2003) highlights in her book, Wide Open Town: a history of Queer San Francisco to 1965, there existed a tension between bar owners/bar goers and the homophile activists because the former were concerned with securing the right to public space for lesbian and gay people while the latter were concerned with acceptance and especially assimilation.  Although they shared the public space of bars and found mutual interests empowering, the homophile activist organizations in San Francisco were working towards an “assimilationist project of social uplift, using language of integration and often time expressing disdain for queer and gender-transgressive qualities of bar-based communities” (p. 162).  Gay and lesbian visibility at this time produced high levels of fear and stress for those who were visible as well as those who were not visible.  One of the main concerns for the Daughters of Bilitis was how they each would build their own self-esteem and self-worth while trying to build a community.  These homophile activists worked to project respectable images of lesbians and gay men into the eyes of public opinion and at times turned their backs on the diversity of the lesbian and gay community in order to be accepted into the mainstream.
In his oral history interview for the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project, Don Sullivan tells his story of ‘coming out’ and he shares the fact that he had had a same-sex encounter that frightened him and made him move back to his parents’ ranch in northern California.  He said that he “didn’t know what homosexuality was, but he was unable to cope with it.”  During the 1950s he had been in the military and received care from the VA hospital, which he said he could not stand.  He did not say why he did not like the care from the VA, but through reading about how non-normative men were treated in the military after WWII, I can better understand these gaps and silences as haunted by historic practicers were threatening especially in their pathologizations.  Don goes on to account for his first trip to a gay bar in the bay area.  He was appalled by how terrible the gay bar was, but that was where he met his long-term partner, Gene.  Don was intentional when he told me that he did not go home with Gene that night, obviously dispelling the stereotype of the promiscuous gay man.  Overall, they were together for nearly fifty years as Gene had passed away just two months shy of their anniversary.  Such a declaration is itself haunted by the politics of respectability that mark all of the interviews I have conducted thus far for the archives.  The interview excerpt that leads this section highlights, for me, the need to demonstrate respectability as well as the fear that the police and their surveillance had instilled in the lesbian and gay communities as they tried to connect with one another at bars and then in more private settings like someone’s home.  The fear of losing your job and having your name placed in the paper as a social stigma was a real fear with significant material consequences that was embodied by many people in the lesbian and gay communities at that time and that continues to haunt LGBTQ communities today. 
The politics of respectability underpinned this ‘good gays/bad gays’ dichotomy, in which those who fit the norms or could work to reach the norms were considered ‘good citizens’ and then would have more access to rights given by the state.  Canaday (2009) in her book, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America, explains how citizenship is two-pronged:  1) as practice and 2) as status.  Therefore, citizen as status and identity “seeks to identify the attributes of good citizens, and to determine the way in which individuals are incorporated into the status of citizenship” (p. 8).  Along these lines, it is necessary then to establish parameters of citizenship that consider questions of nature and quality so that some are included and some are excluded.  By establishing the insider/outsider binary, the dominant groups can then entice the non-dominant groups to join the insiders by fitting their established norms or they can remain the “outlaws,” as Puar calls them.  Puar goes on to explain how “some homosexual subjects are complicit with heterosexual national formations rather than inherently or automatically excluded from or opposed to them” (p.4).  Therefore, control by the nation, state, dominant groups and their ideological hegemony seems to take place easily through Gramscian notions of spontaneous consent because those who are being “Othered” often demonstrate a longing for respectability, therefore, they consent without recognizing what they are consenting to.  “Respectable gays like to think that they owe nothing to the sexual subculture they think of as sleazy.  But their success, their way of living, their political rights, and their very identities would never have been possible but for the existence of the public sexual culture they now despise” (Berlant & Warner, 2003, p. 177).  Set apart as binaries and opposites, the 'good gays’ always exist in relation to the ‘bad gays’ so that when one segment is lifted, it shifts in opposition to another being further marginalized.  This production of exceptionalism can produce not only the gay or non-gay citizen but functions also to maintain and support dominant ideological structures.  As Puar and Smith both argue, the exceptional subject is a “white queer subject who reinscribes a U.S. homornormativity by positioning himself/herself in an imperialist relationship to those ethnic subjects deemed unable to transgress” (Smith, p. 49).  Understanding the exceptionalism of what it means to be a good gay citizen, and the ascension of whiteness that accompanies that social location, may be helpful in understanding who the first group of LGBTQ people to come forward to tell their stories for the “Arizona LGBT Storytelling Project”: gay middle-class white men.

being ‘normal’
“We have not had a ceremony.  We have talked about having a ceremony once we have a child and doing kind of a family ceremony.  We’re – we’ve both been married.  Neither of us are interested necessarily in getting married again, although I think we’ve changed a little over time.  At this point, we’re not interested in having a ceremony in the state of Arizona.  If we want to get married, then – and we’re also not interested in going to a state, getting married there, and coming back to Arizona.  I think that if we, um, I think that if things don’t change in the state of Arizona within the next three to five years, then we probably will leave and move to a place that recognizes same-sex couples as real human beings.”

Eve Rifkin (age 39) interview
Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project
30 September 2009

“Gordon and I have been together twenty years.  I mean, how more married can you be?  Juan has been with us now for four years.  Um, and the same would be true for Juan.  He is a very kind, gentle, loving person.  It works for us and it works very well.  If you saw our master bedroom, I mean, we have probably the biggest bed you’ve ever seen because it’s a bed for three.”          

Les Krambeal (age 60-something) interview
Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project
10 April 2010

Often contributors to the oral history archive appeared to want to demonstrate how “normal” and respectable they were.  I have come to better understand this storytelling practice through what Duggan (2003) has called “the new homonormativity… a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” (p.50).   As you can see in Eve Rifkin’s oral history interview excerpt above, she and her partner have been contemplating marriage, but feel thwarted by the anti-gay legislation in the state of Arizona.  She runs through a number of options as some states offer legal same-sex marriage.  Her final sentence spells out the haunting of the dehumanizing bio-political strategies that have been regulating LGBTQ bodies since the late 19th century.  Being recognized as a “real human being” is important to her as she feels like a second-class citizen without the right to marry.  The haunting here shows traces of the liberal respectability and rights-based movement that started in the 1970s and also extended backward into the earlier ideas of assimilation during the development of the homophile movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  Today, this aspiration for normalized civil rights has become deeply embedded in our LGBTQ lives and we have become inculcated in these desires for acceptance so that many from these communities embody this homonormativity.  In creating this desire for “gay equality” and the subsequent LGBTQ communities’ investment into this civil rights agenda, the gay public sphere is contained and becomes, therefore, manageable by the dominant mainstream publics and capitalist enterprise[6].  Through exercising a gay moralism, our own LGBTQ communities self-regulate and attack the non-normativities that exist and are visible within our own groups.
Canaday, calling on the Gramscian notion of hegemony through coercion, explains how ‘homosexuality’ became a legal category in similar ways to how it became a medical and psychiatric one:  “To uncover those processes is to challenge the law’s own tendency to authorize homosexuality as somehow pre-given or even natural in its constitution. ‘The power exerted by a legal regime consists less in the force that it can bring to bear against violators of its rules,’ writes the legal historian Robert Gordon, ‘than in its capacity to persuade that the world described in its image and categories is the only attainable world’” (p. 4).  Furthermore, this development of the “good citizen” works for our nationalist agenda.  The formation of the homonational subject and rights discourses works in tandem with the patriotic propaganda to produce and reproduce even further this rigid binary where the outsiders and “outlaws” become even further marginalized as “queer terrorists.”  Duggan’s homonormative ideologies go hand-in-hand with this invitation to “good citizenship” and the US nation-state formation, but in this, there becomes an even narrower threshold for racial, class, and gender national ideals and an extension of the applied eugenics from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that Bronski and Eaklor comment on in their historical accounts about the social purity movements that were working on establishing the “sanitary utopia” (Bronski, p. 91).  The social purity movements of the early twentieth century haunt the LGBTQ communities as self-regulation becomes a dominant form of normalizing.
   In his oral history interview, Les Krambeal talked about his work in politics especially for LGBTQ rights.  He also told stories of growing up on a ranch and how today he was active with the gay rodeo.  His desires revolved around forms of masculinity as defined through cowboys and rodeos, both of which have held a strong place in mainstream culture in terms of the image of the rugged individual conquering the west.  For me, the emphasis on what gay rodeos produce in terms of fundraising for the LGBTQ community and organizations dedicated to serving LGBTQ people and the gay rodeo’s mission to ‘break stereotypes’ while also attending to the well-being of the rodeo animals certainly challenges assumptions on a number of levels – the cowboy, the gay, and the rodeo.   In the interview excerpt above, he mentions marriage, but goes on to explain his relational and sexual configuration as three men.  For the archives, this contradictory positioning about LGBTQ “coupling,” marriage, and relationships opens us up to recognizing that “queer culture constitutes itself in many ways other than through the official publics of opinion culture and the state, or through the privatized forms normally associated with sexuality” (Berlant & Warner, p. 175).  Many in the LGBTQ communities seem to have found comfort in the stability that living according to the heteronormative/homonormative ideologies provides.  This complicity affords them a dependable life that does not have to be explained or reinvented, shifted, and changed on a continuous basis and can therefore be legible as worthy of rights and respectability.   

conjuring the queer archives
“I identify as gender-queer.  I identify as queer.  And maybe even more than those things, as a poet and a teacher.  So, in terms of my gender-queer identity, for me, that’s really about feeling very happy to have been born in the body that I was born in, which is female, and incredible grateful for my experience as a woman – growing up as a woman, living as a woman.  And really feeling like my transition, which has just been taking testosterone, has just allowed me to foreground another part of myself without, hopefully without erasing what came before.  And so, for me, I feel pretty comfortably situated in both genders, even though I know the world sees me as a guy.  To me, that’s a little bit funny because even when I look in the mirror, I am still a little bit surprised that folks see just a guy because of the facial hair and things like that.  So, yeah, gender-queer and queer in terms of my sexuality because it has not been stable.  [LAUGHTER.] And, um, I like that.  It feels fluid.  And that fluidity, I think, has also been a result of my transition and becoming and accepting that my own comfort in my body changes and moves in and out as well.”          

TC Tolbert (age 30-something) interview
Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project
29 April 2010

“I just feel that every day when I look in the mirror, [LONG PAUSE.  CRYING.] I think about when my father committed suicide, they didn’t call me for three weeks.  No one entered that home because they knew he had AIDS.  His pets ate him.  And I had to scrape him from the floor.  That is not the way society should be.  [CRYING.[7]]  And every day I look in the mirror, I’m like ‘I’m gonna be the best damn person I can.’”          

Jim Leos (age 50-something) interview
Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project
21 March 2012

Roque Ramírez’s article, “Gay Latino Histories/Dying to Be Remembered: AIDS Obituaries, Public Memory, and the Queer Latino Archive,” informs our ability to see how bodies are further regulated in and out of the archives.  To find and imagine an archive or collection of historical traces in spaces that have often been overlooked ties into Gordon’s use of the verb to conjure as a “particular form of calling up and calling out the forces that make things what they are in order to fix and transform a troubling situation” (p. 22).  As a method of uncovering these lost and missing pieces of history, Roque Ramírez carries on this verb usage to explain the potentials within the queer archive

“To conjure the practice of queer archives opens up exciting epistemological possibilities, such as queering the Latina archive or racializing the queer archive.  Also, however, queer archiving practices stir a host of theoretical debates, with empirical claims for historical knowledge production receiving postmodern critiques of the hegemonic, essentialist, and exclusionary practices in history writing, museum collections, and archival repositories.  Simply put, some bodies and their representations – white, male, middle-class, heterosexual, and Anglo – have been much more present than all others in the official halls, drawers, and pages of ‘evidence.’ Yet despite these critiques of what counts as history, evidence, and archival importance, there have also been activists and academic movements for recognizing precisely the missing, neglected, and largely undocumented cultures, bodies, and histories of entire communities, usually within the same logics of historical rendition and archival practices.”  (p. 105).

Even within a queer paradigm and the embodied push towards difference or sameness, this regulation of bodies of-color is problematic leading me to wonder about the possibilities of developing an archive that is queer(ed).  Smith in her article titled “Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism” argues that “queer culture and queer politics does not obey the member/nonmember logics of race and gender” (p. 45).  She pulls in Warner’s argument that “if queerness is dominated by whiteness, then it follows a logic of belonging and non-belonging.  It also relies on a shared culture – one based on white supremacy.  As Perez notes ‘Queer theory, when it privileges difference over sameness absolutely, colludes with institutional racism in vanishing, hence retrenching, white privilege.  It serves as the magician’s assistant to whiteness’s disappearing act’” (p. 45).  Perez is arguing that when we conflate all difference it becomes a sameness still entrenched with the hierarchies that are societally in place.  Considering the two ends of this spectrum, one pushing difference and one pushing sameness, and how it impacts the archives through selection, appraisal, classification, and making accessible, the queer/ed archive can exist as long as it is flexible, fluid, and open to mobility and shifting spaces that it then creates for more stories as well as more silences and hauntings. 
The oral history interview excerpts from TC Tolbert and Jim Leos highlight the complexities of our own individual histories, but more importantly, for the greater queer/ed archive, they shine a light on the unique stories and the nature of our collective memory as always becoming.  Our collective memory is one and many that cannot fit nicely into the spectrum, but encompasses this spectrum.  Muñoz offers his model for political engagement “whereas assimilationism seems to identify with the dominant society, and whereas counteridentificiation seeks to reject it completely, disidentification ‘is the third mode of dealing with dominant ideology, one that neither opts to assimilate within such a structure nor strictly opposes it; rather, disidentification is a strategy that works on and against dominant ideology’” (Smith, p. 55).  Disidentification is not a middle ground between assimilationist and contestatory politics; rather, it is a tactic that recognizes the shifting terrain of resistance. More importantly, the queer(ed) archive can become an embodied strategy to recognize the hauntings that exist in each of us and in our memories, as well as in our tellings, so that we can then look more closely at the silences to not necessarily fill them with something else, but to find the ghosts that already reside there.  It is in these spaces and moments that the archive can be mobile, moving, animated, while also open for contested and contradictory histories; fear and tension; creative and fertile exploration; and certainly a messy yet generative spirit.  Being attentive to these hauntings and all of the ghosts gets at the potential for queerness and queer politics.  In the queer/ed archive we will find those who are not or may not want to be respectable – a bed for three and a body that is both/and and so much more that it insists on a recognizable history of girl.  Imagine what we can learn and document outside of normativizing the politics of respectability.


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[1] Gould uses the term affect “to indicate nonconscious and unnamed, but nevertheless registered, experiences of bodily energy and intensity that arise in response to stimuli impinging on the body” (p. 19).  In her footnote she credits Brian Massumi’s discussion of what is at stake politically in this rendering of emotion.  And here Massumi draws from Spinoza and Deleuze.  What stands out for me here is the use of the word nonconscious rather than unconscious to explain this in order to reference that which is outside of conscious awareness.  This relates to my earlier inclusion of haptic visualtiy and our bodily ways of knowing and being outside of the optical perspective of the world.
[2] Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus is defined as “the socially constituted, commonsensical, taken-for-granted understandings or schemas in a social grouping that, operating beneath conscious awareness, on the level of bodily understanding, provide members with a disposition or orientation to action, a ‘sense of the game’ and how best to play it” (Gould, p. 34).
[3] This is the first formal articulation of core archival principles, 100 archival rules debated by the Dutch Association of Archivists.
[4] Jenkinson’s stance was that the role of the archivist was to keep the archive, not select the archive.  This canon of rules and procedures helped to create the identity of objectivity.
[5] “Introduced into English through the 1892 English translation of Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, the term ‘homosexuality’ stimulated a great deal of uneasiness.  In the 1915 edition of Sexual Inversion, Ellis reported that ‘most investigators have been much puzzled in coming to a conclusion as to the best, most exact, and at the same time most colorless names [for same-sex desire]” (Somerville, p. 31-32).
[6] See: Jasbir Puar’s article “Circuits of Queer Mobility: Tourism, Travel, and Globalization in
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2002) 8(1-2): 101-137; and Rosemary Hennessy’s
2002 book, Profit and pleasure: Sexual identities in late capitalism and her 1994 article, “Queer
visibility in commodity culture” in Cultural Critique, (29), 31-76.
[7] Through the transcription of the oral history interviews for this paper, I chose to include the pauses and the emotion production that takes place in front of the camera because I will not be providing the actual video segments themselves.  I believe that understanding the emotion here is helpful in truly imagining the materialiality and force through which the politics of respectability work within each of us.  


  1. This is a really useful and provocative paper. I wonder how often our own homonormative impulses inflect archival and historical practices among LGBTQI researchers.