Observing the Past: Archives, Interpretation and Practices of Care
Okay, great. Just, but we have to shut off before we turn off. Okay. Thanks new three. Will you put the RHXY website into the chat, I will.
Great. Hello everyone. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening and welcome to observing the past archives interpretation and practices of care. I'm Jessica Womack and I'm a PhD candidate at Princeton University and the Department of Art and archaeology. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that this event is taking place on the unseen land of indigenous people, we pay our respects to elder's past, present and emerging.
I am pleased to welcome you all here today to what will surely be a wonderful and important conversation, observing the past brings together curators archivist and academics who are committed to practicing care and interpretation and collection of medical history archives that handles are organized as a party already checks visual and medical legacies of British colonialism already checks which I will drop the link to the project in the chat shortly addresses the historical and ongoing entanglements between art space and medicine in the spaces of the former British Empire specifically Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Asia, and the United States from the 16th century onward, on the project site we have compiled a searchable digital database of objects and images that bring these histories interview. rd tracks is led by Dr Anna urban Cason and the research team is composed of research assistants, including the varnish universe, Sydney feeler Phoebe Warren and myself, to get us started for today, I will introduce Dr Eben Ghassan, and then introduce each speaker before they offer their individual presentations. First we will have Dr. And then, Dr. Ruth D'Souza BB no balls and me, me, excuse me, MSR Coney after the panel will come together for conversation, then we will open it up for questions from the audience as a note, please use the chat function if you're having any technical issues, and you can place your questions in the q amp a box. Dr Anna urban kassin is Assistant Professor of African American and black diaspora art at Princeton University, and jointly appointed in both African American Studies and art and archaeology her first book, black bodies white bold, art, cotton and commerce and the Atlantic world was first was published this month, and is now available via Duke University Press. And now to introduce our first speaker for today, Dr. Ed number one is a historian and writer in Berlin, Germany, she earned her PhD in the history of science in Princeton University, and a Master's of Public Health and Columbia University, her dissertation
examines the commercial and geopolitical trajectory of plague, and it's linked to commercial provincial and imperial policies in several North African port cities. Dr Bono's project cartography self care is part of her long term research project that she started in 2019 with of growing collection archive, on the representation of black health and healing in Germany. So, I will turn the mic over to you Dr. William, thank you so much. Thank you so much to everyone. The organizers, Michael panelists as well as those who we are not able to see so caretakers janitors sex workers and disabled.
I'm really honored to be able to be in this active conversation about the past archives and care as a historian of science, I'm very much interested in thinking actively about the ways in which the history of epidemics shapes our ability to access medicine, and in some cases, how that impacts the extent to which we get sick. This project stems from my current book project which looks at the history of epidemics and how it has impressed upon racialized people who are not only blamed for epidemics but in some cases articulating various degrees of health and illness, based off of contagion containment. So I'll begin with an antidote, which is to say that on the first of May, 1850 RN Featherston and slavery in Mississippi wrote to dr new a physician who specialized in plantation medicine, asking for advice on how to treat an outbreak of color on his plantation, asking for advice, Dr new responded to the letter with. She later published into a modest pamphlet indicating quote, when a Walmart case of cholera fully developed in all the characteristics of the disease appears on a plantation, I would
like buys the removal of all the well, Negros, to promote comfortable buildings and quote, where he advocated for was a strict quarantine. And like the recommendations of the newly created international Sanitary Commission, he opted to isolate the contagion this correspondence was not unique. In fact, various plantation medicine manuals, have been published to make account, about the health of enslaved black people during the 19th century, the United States have carried off the ceaseless war on black life visible and unrelenting, the necessity to keep black people alive, especially during the color epidemic was predicated on the fact that they still want it sufficiently healthy labor for their plantations. And while the plantation might be considered a planet without a suitable life support system hardened by the abject condemnation of enslave humans, the plantation is a site of terror.
And it's also the site of resistance, the brutality of the system was not just the US problem but it extended to the Caribbean, like the American cell color rage the fields, health was not a policy dictated by the state but an ill formed pastiche of remedies and messages that not forgot to the core of ameliorating the life of the formerly, and currently enslaved color was a worldwide problem in the 19th century, transforming itself from a tropical disease to a global pandemic. Although sanitary precautions had been affected in certain cases they're imposed upon and and and systematic way that often disregarded the health outcomes of the most vulnerable, that is to say be enslaved. And during the loan 19th century medicine was an awakening science undergo a reconciliation with ancient practices where midwives blood letters and the curious, use new methods to assuage the contagions contemporary minutes. Medical panelists, as well as a rubric for plantation medicine fashion healing, with very restricted means. So in 1850 in Jamaica, then put a den British territory also experienced a cholera outbreak where 30,000 people on have a population of 400,000 got the disease. Although this was a period of post emancipation in Jamaica. Many of the newly freed black people still labored in brutal plantation like settings and supplied cotton sugar and tobacco to the British Empire, like the United States positions provided treatments on in terrifically afflicted plantation sites. One such physician, Dr. Gavin millboro who conducted research in Jamaica, hoping to understand the pandemic provide a first hand accounts of what was going on.
For enslavers life other stones, a slave mortality was principally tied to profitability. For the plantation investments, while for positions like Dr new and Dr Milburn, the practice of caring for the most vulnerable open broader conversations about contagion and enslavement in slavery in the United States and the Caribbean, often described For example, je wills to planters and the Marine Corps medical companion, one of the authors reports a color was one of the most common diseases, on the plantation price of $50 which is equivalent to 1500 dollars today, and dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, the text was a medical advice book for plantation owners to provide direct treatment to the enslaved. These medical pamphlets were for enslavers, and it reveals a complicated reality of who was responsible for health, even during a pandemic. The flood failure at the slave economy to build a robust infrastructure such as regional health boards that could have provided actual equal treatment and medical care was contained in how, and who was granted adequate health care, and the hierarchy of life. The social medical contract was based on the will up and its labor and his network, not the greater goal of
the public health. And the story color is not only one about this Imperial nature of the disease, but how Southern and Caribbean slavery lacked the capacity and will to undo harm amongst those who had been enslaved. So what makes this plantation economy important to understand the study is a medical medical interventions during pandemics is to really understand the extent to which black people were left in and out of the plantation manuals, medical manuals that were constructed. So, there was no consensus on how disease spread but there were racialized perspectives about where the disease originated as well as at the same time, apart from confinement, African Americans, and newly insulate of newly free people spoke about disease. In his autobiography from slaves to the pulpit, Reverend Peter Randolph sketches plantation life is a text that is conventional slave narrative of the time, highlighting his early childhood, his memories, his kin, and his pathway to freedom in the 14th chapter of the text he lists the full names of his friends carefully marking their initials when known, and he justifies this chapter stating that these are the friends that have been part of the changing seasons of my life. This follows from an earlier point that he made that he who has friends must show himself friendly. He who was enslaved was, He was enslaved with at one other people by Carter h as low on the Brandon presentation and the county of Prince George and Virginia. Unlike most of them slave read off learn to read and write. And after lamenting about the perils of slavery. He noted in his biography quote, The choleric came among the slaves and carried many to their rest, the very atmosphere at this time seemed to
burn with evil and wrong for the poor Negros, so that the death and the rest death was their best friend. And so according to read off death was more appealing than life of enslavement shrouded with fortuitous violence, and the conditions of confinement, another perspective on this relationship between enslavement and disease can be found in another slave narrative by the name of Harriet Jacobs and incidents in Herbalife of split of a slave girl, which was published in 1861. It was one of the few sleep narratives written by a woman, black woman, and early on in the text she notes, quote, I was born a slave, but I never knew it until six years of happy childhood had passed away. However, she noted she did not live on a distant plantation but rather in a town which afford her access to a wider community. And throughout the text Jacob weaves between her desire to escape and her physical breaking points.
When she fell ill she recalled having Tillis and definitely sickness that came over her. And although she never received a diagnosis, or this particular ailment. One thing that she elucidated like brother and friend off, was that during this period of being both enslaved and sick, quote, she prayed to die but the prayer was not answered in this sickness have become part of her way of life, and for an entire year she rarely had a day without chills more fevers, Harry Jacobs also discusses a doctor who owned slaves complicit in the plantation economy. This physician who was tasked provide care was an agent that was relegate that relegated black live as property, rather than people worthy of freedom and universal healthcare. At the same time enslaved black women challenges racial differences by performing their own abortions delivering children or making their own herbal remedies. In some cases, it's labor's relied on black women to oversee and provide medical care. Slavery is often a condition that is remembered without giving voice to women displayed, but as you get going on has noted and runaway genres slave narratives provide the tool for formerly enslaved to provide heartbreaking sentimental peers for appeals for abolition, and as a transatlantic slave trade declaration decelerated in the mid 19th century. One major concern of enslavers was the safeguarding black women's reproductive capacities, they were ruthlessly forced to reproduce without their consent,
which Dorothy robbers outlines in killing the black body masters with whip and slave women, but avoid harming the belly during late stage pregnancy. After all, the reproductive health was more important than the care of that can be provided to black women of one's lover the trajectory of infliction, or even once escape the slave narratives, give us an opportunity to look beyond the draconian measures of isolation and the legal restrictions of movement, and to see what is possible when one becomes free. It's like people in the American self and Caribbean were also challenging their vulnerability to contagion by utilizing their herbal remedies or escaping bondage, with little or no access to the biomedical regimes that their enslavers, and despite the harshest conditions enslaved Africans were able to exercise agency over their bodies through plant medicine, through pine and turpentine that offer them some control or agency over their bodies. Black scholars have had much to say about black health and during the black health and beyond, and to bring it back to board the Robertsons meditation and how racism feels the body, black body and Harriet Washington six Expo say medical apartheid, which looks at the unequal treatment of evidence by the damage and crushing issues with plantation economy. We can come to understand how remedies, and specifically African descended remedies allowed for some relief and survival, the containment of epidemics,
time and again, pathologists black people but often. If we look into the ways in which people articulated in their own terms. What could be possible. We could see how people move beyond these, these, These interments of death. So by way of conclusion. One of the things I want to highlight is that humans and microbes live in a constant communion with each other, whether that relationship is attacking the sticker beneficial, or that liaison can shortly change if the micro organism is associated with with sex, gender, and beyond our engagement with epidemics in the modern era, as well as the past determines how we can be able to be, who is worthy of care. Thank you.
Thank you, Dr. Mona, thank you so much for your remarks. And now to end we'll have time to of course, ask questions and have a conversation at the end of everyone's presentation. So to transition to dr deceptive Susan's talk, and I'm going to introduce her. race, health and digital technologies. Her fellowship engages health professionals and finding new ways to understand co design and implement sustainable cultural safety initiatives in a range of health contexts. Dr de Souza. Hi everyone, it's 11 o'clock at my here in Melbourne, I'm joining you from the unseeded lens of the boomerang people, where I'm an uninvited guests. I pay my respects to elder's past and prison.
And I also want to acknowledge all the indigenous peoples that are watching this webinar. I pay tribute to the knowledge strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and acknowledge the profound trauma of European invasion. I'd also like to acknowledge that mechanisms for healing and caring for each other as well being in this place. Go back 80,000 years in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face threats to their health and their well being on a daily basis as seen here and deaths in custody. The destruction of sacred country, and continuing colonial occupation. always was always will be Aboriginal land. I chose the image of a medical missionary attending to a sick African as it made me reflect on my own experiences of racism colonization care and cultures of health, and I'm very, very grateful to enough for providing such a, such a very interesting overview, particularly in a time of pandemic when we're all grappling with the enormity of this world event.
Pro coming to the prior to coming to Australia. I grew up on the traditional lens of to Couto McKee, and to into sarangi Auckland, New Zealand, and before that I was born in Tanzania and lived in Kenya in the transition from post colonial, sorry from colonial to post colonial rule, and a society imposed by Europe. I speak from a position of disquiet born into a South Asian community who navigated their own exclusions from whiteness while our position in Africa was under the management and protection of the British Empire. When I was a child in East Africa, which is quite a long time ago. I love watching documentaries about Livingston and Stanley, the explorers. In fact, I was born into Bora, the railway town with Stanley found Livingston, and Tyree was another favorite show Swahili word for Dr. And it was about a visit Dr mash Tracy at a fictional Studies Center for animal behavior, and his daughter and staff who protected animals from poachers and local officials apparently and inspired by an animal orphanage in Nairobi that I love to visit.
When I look at this image that you can see on the screen. It evokes the white savior complex. In fact, the white savior loot looms large, while the African people waste in anticipation, without any acknowledgement that they might have resources and skills incumbent on the beneficence of the great white healer and has God. They stand with full attention but empty hands. I'm reminded of the work of a deep best Aboriginal professor at the University of Southern Queensland here in Australia, she's chosen her scholarly work, how Aboriginal men and women were greatly respected for the healing capabilities.
By early settlers, for example settler women preferred Aboriginal women to take care of them during childbirth, as opposed to white medical doctors, my nursing profession valor rises by medicine, and is constructed as handmaiden it my own work investigates the colonial legacies of health and nursing, in the context of migrant Mattoon she's my profession of nursing. Excuse me, I'll just grab some water. My profession of nursing is not only an altruistic and caring enterprise, but it's complicit with biomedicine, and the advancement of colonialism and imperialism. While the concept of health has in turn, leave moral credibility to the colonial enterprise as they've now showed us earlier, the state links health to its economic and political power.
And this has enabled healthcare professionals, especially nurses who comprise the largest group to control populations through surveillance normalizing judgments and intervention. The nurse patient relationship is characterized by espoused virtue, and the hierarchy of dependency, featuring a person who bestows, and a person who's indebted in this individualized frame, the gaze is drawn to the interpersonal encounter, rather than the community context of health and well being, which is not shown in the image. The white missionary has their ancestor present, but the local people do not. So for me, what this is about new thing is that we need to move away from and divide individualized culturally and racialized discourses that view care as individual to more collective relational and critical models that take into account the broader context of care. Cultural safety critical intersection approaches to key understandings of power relations are all things that I want to see transform my profession. I'm going to swiftly hand over to Jessica now so that we've got plenty of time for questions, and conversation.
Thank you so much Dr D'Souza. Next, we will have Phoebe nobles and I will introduce db, db is a term archivist at Mudd manuscript library at Princeton University. She's worked at Mudd and several temporary positions since 2016, and as a member of the inclusive description working group formed in 2019. I the archival description and processing team and the special collections at Princeton University Library BB. Thank you. Thank you. I'm so grateful to be included here today with these other speakers and thanks to Mr. Ben Carson and to your Jessica Womack for organizing this event. So I am one of the archivist who create and maintain the finding aids that researchers use to discover and access Princeton's archival collections and collectively were known as the article description and processing team.
Then the inclusive description working group is a subgroup of that team made up currently have seven archivists whose names are shown here. And it formed in May 2019 several members of this team had worked with the group archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia to create its anti racist description resources. So, next slide please. Our main goal is to describe archival materials with respect for the individuals and communities who create and use them and who are represented in them. And if that sounds extremely basic we find that right now we need to make a focused effort to think this way, since people working in our field have not always described people respectfully or accurately, and especially not people from marginalized and minorities groups. We want to emphasize that repetitive work can't be a one time fix but needs to become part of archivists ongoing processes well into the future. Next slide please. Since I can't describe everything, or even very much at all of the what the group has done and intends to do I'm focusing briefly on an example that just happened to come up for me in the course of my regular descriptive work.
So this slide shows part of the finding aid for an assembled collection of photographs at the archives called the historical photograph collection individuals series. So it's photographs with people who had something to do with the university reaching back to the mid 19th century, including people who are categorized as staff which series, you can see near the bottom left here. In the course of my work, I had just noticed that there were multiple photographs that were labeled quote an identified African American men.
When what was clearly a duplicate photo of that same person was titled with the man's actual name. So all I am to do initially was to change an identified to the man's name James see Johnson, which you can see in the next slide. As I looked further I saw that there are many photographs of James see Johnson in this collection and attached to his name in most instances was this derogatory nickname which you can see on the next slide. That said his nickname, Jimmy stink was certainly pejorative and it was assigned to Johnson by Princeton students. One of our working groups priorities is to aim to describe people in ways that they would describe themselves if we can, though this is not to suggest that I can inhabit Johnson's mind. In many cases this nickname could have been written on the back of these photographs by someone along the way it could have been the photographer some students or alumni, or it could have been a previous library in our archivist. But this nickname was attached to Johnson's name throughout this finding aid almost as if it were part of an authority record for his name.
It was used as a title even when a descriptive note would sometimes tell you that something different was inscribed on the back of a particular photograph. So on the next. Next slide please. It turns out there's actually been a fair amount of research about Johnson in the past few years, for instance work that was connected to the Princeton and slavery project whose website features articles about Johnson. There were one of the Princeton slavery, Princeton enslave replays that came out of that project was centered on Johnson, and probably partly due to the projects work, the archway of a building on campus was named after Johnson at 29 2018.
This is an image of part of a blog post that a member of muds public services staff, April Armstrong wrote together with one of the photos of Johnson from the collection. In this case, selling food on campus together with a younger person whose identity, we're still not sure of. Johnson was once called James Collins and took the surname Johnson sometime after he escaped enslavement in Maryland, and assume something of a new identity in Princeton.
You worked for decades in various roles on Princeton's campus starting in 1839. And for someone who was listed at one point as an identified, there really is a decent amount we can learn about him though none of the record was created by Johnson himself. And of course, there's a lot we cannot know, or learn about him. Next slide please.
The next slide shows another image of Johnson from Princeton's collections and another one on the cover of a recent book about Johnson written by Lolita Buckner in is called the Princeton fugitive slave. I can't really cram his story into this time. And I'd really encourage you to read this book which is really worthwhile, but I'll just mention that Dr. In his pointedly noted in a book talk that she gave that many materials at my library that she researched till were labeled with a derogatory nickname. And because of Dr innocence book also as of 2020 James Collins Johnson now does have a library of congress name authority record that doesn't include any derogatory name. Next slide. Just to go back to the finding aid. I haven't completely erased, Jimmy stink from the finding aid and partly because we don't want to hide that Johnson was described this way for so long, and we may not be ready to remove the term completely as a search
term, but we don't need to center it as his name. So I've moved the pejorative nickname into an explanatory note which attempts to briefly contextualize it. The note is actually slightly changed since this slide was made, but this gives you the idea of some of the work. I don't pretend and no one in our group I think pretends that this is a perfect or a permanent solution. We hope that it's just one part of an ongoing process, and a process that's open to suggestion. Part of our groups work is to reach out to other staff and to researchers who can tell us what language they find harmful in our descriptive text, and there's a lot of work to be done here.
So I'm leaving off there and passing the screen over to my colleague Emma Saccone. Thank you. Thank you so much BB. So before ms bx I will introduce Mr. Mr. Marconi is the records, professional for special collections at Princeton Firestone library as a librarian and book historian Saccone seeks to facilitate conversations around the impact of special collections and
our lives by providing quality reference services instruction design project management and event planning. She chairs and co leads several initiatives, including chairing the RB ms leap exhibition awards committee and co directing the archival silences working group I Princeton. Thank you. Thank you so much, Jessica and thank you so much for organizing this event you and Anna, it's, it's wonderful to be here today and hear from my colleagues and really enjoyed all of our previous presentations and I look forward to, to conversing with you all on this important topic.
So today, I'm going to be talking about issues of authority in the archive as I see as, as I see them as a reference librarian, so it's just like I mentioned, I'm the reference librarian for special collections at Princeton. I'm a member of our public services team where my primary responsibility is connecting researchers to our collection via email, and increasing number of zoom calls and in the reading room. I also, as I mentioned, as was mentioned organize events and do outreach on behalf of our collections and community. I am not a catalog or an archivist, do not have that training in my background, but we'll be talking about the catalog and the archive today from my point of view and public services, this perspective has been informed by speaking with my archivist colleagues throughout the years, as well as reading the scholarship of archival luminaries including Michelle Caswell and Dorothy Barry, I would encourage you to seek out those perspectives. As I give you mine.
My with that my practices librarian is overall really guided by the goal of increasing access to our collections, I firmly believe that as john Overholt Rare Book librarian at Harvard total library stated in his essay five theses on the future of special collections that everyone is special enough for special collections. I believe that this is true for both those visiting our collections, or working with our collections and for those whose narratives are held in our collection, the field, however is still striving towards a more egalitarian approach in both of these realms. And today I will offer one example of how barriers to access and concepts of authority impact this effort.
So let's talk about authority in the archive, and we can, we are enslaved to Greek. So I'd like to bring your attention to the type of a woman carrying a medical bag that is featured on the art and colonialism database but is held by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture object to number. 2014 dot three seven dot one for moving on to slide three. If you follow the link on the art hX website to the source record, hosted by the Smithsonian the metadata for this object on the website lists the subject of this photo as unidentified woman, or women, and the creator as identified. This is a scene, this seeming dead and is not an unusual scenario for those researching anyone. If you've ever tried to look into the history of historical figure, you might come into this scenario, but for those who are particularly interested in the
stories of women in collections, and even more so if you're interested in women of color. It is increasingly more common, or it is historically more common, which is why there's much more labor associated with research projects invested in telling these kinds of stories, and I'm happy to sort of elaborate on that, and the q amp a folks are interested, but moving on to slide for. I want to push back a little bit on this concept of her being an identified. So Phoebe sort of gesture towards the fact that this can sort of happen that we have information in the archive that is not translated across objects or whatever, but within this object. There is the caption provided by the Smithsonian that reads the woman in this occupational tintype is identified but she bears a strong resemblance to Dr. the fourth African American female doctor in the United States. She was one of the first female doctors to specialize in obstetrics pediatrics, I was a mentor to black midwives throughout her career. So it seems like the descriptive team has a hunch that they can't confirm. Why that they can't confirm that is anyone's guess, but I personally love that they included this information, despite the lack of certainty in the archival record.
All too often the infrastructure of the archive is approach to a lens of absolute authority. This is the record the information included is capital T true and that sort of is, is that calls in the archival community that there's no such thing as a neutral archive, or a neutral library have done much to sort of push against this assumption archival and catalog records are created by humans who are fallible and biased and products of their time, they have constraints on how much description, they can do based on the skills and the knowledge that they have, or even more so, the amount of time that they have to write I write a description wit and all this amounts the idea that the cow, the archival record is not gospel and it shouldn't be treated as a static object. I would argue instead that it is a series of facts and perspectives and sometimes perspectives that think that they're facts that are responding to a moment that response, however, has lent the legitimacy to certain forms expressions, etc. Knowledge over others, some names over others. And historically that has been in the interest of upholding white colonial patriarchy. All that is to say that there's caption and inclusion and its wording is pointing to other possibilities that the researcher can consider it. And in that way, it is empowering. That empowerment, however, is somewhat limited because the caption as great as it is, is not searchable. If I am a researcher or I have a library and working on behalf of a researcher interested in finding images or information on Sarah Logan Frazier and I searched her name, even at it is written in this in this caption, because I assume of the.
I assume the underlying computing structure of the database. I will not get this image in my search results. So, moving on to slide five. This is a tragedy on several levels, one being that it is an access and discovery issue, issues of access are not limited to physical space or outdated Reading Room policies. They include our discovery portals. This structure makes it difficult for certain researchers to use an access this material. further and makes difficult for those who might have the knowledge to change this possible identification into a certain one, because they will struggle to find that image at all. It will take a certain amount of effort to know that the question is even being asked in the first place. the question of whether this is Sarah or not, the descriptive team had the resources to be able to include the information, which
as I mentioned is not always a given but a whole other problem, but the infrastructure could not support their effort. And this is where I come back to, we come back to authority. How can our archival and library systems, better hold the possibilities that are collections and body, how can they welcome collaboration shun objectivism and embrace the reality is a non static responsive system. How can we use this field sustainably respectfully and without burdening archivists and catalogs achieve this goal, and more succinctly is a less authoritative archive even possible. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Emma. I would like to welcome back, all of our panelists and our moderator, Professor urban in casting, or conversation and I want to also remind the audience that you can feel free to add any questions that you have to the chat and then we will get to those when we get to the q amp a portion of our conversation. Thank you, Jessica. Thank you all. That was absolutely fascinating and more than I could have hoped for, actually I think there's so many rich connections and discussions to that we can, we can take. I was particularly kind of taken with a couple of a couple of things that I think, bring a lot of this together and Edna put put this quite six and cleans, who is worthy of care. And I think in very many very different ways you've all been talking about, about exactly that question, and you've also shown us how how these histories and histories of archival creation.
Actually, very materially shape and inform the physical and philosophical experiences of healthcare, which is sometimes an oxymoron, and the practice of medicine. And I think, for me what was sort of that I wanted to kind of begin with, though to start getting at some of these questions was, The way that you're all thinking about interpretation, we've, we've seen, I think, in very different ways how you're dealing dealing with the sort of the kind of bind of interpretation. And what I'm what I mean there is that you'll often working through forms of misinterpretation in order to in order to re situate your relationship to histories, but also to to people and to the people who've been harmed by these histories and. So just as a kind of opening question and also to sort of maybe bring in some more of the personal I was wondering if you could, each speak a little bit about how these experiences of interpretation as a as a kind of tool that we use how they've helped you think a little bit more differently or how they've helped you think more deeply about care as a as a practices as much as a concept. And feel free to to jump in. Whenever you're ready for that other people are shy, I'll go first, but I want to make sure I'm not frozen like my presentation. Frozen a little Edna. Okay, maybe I might turn off my video and talk. Can you show me.
Great. Yeah. So that's what I'll do. One thing I will say is that, in, in order to kind of answer your question around the experience of interpretation. I would say that the very diligent and important work that Ruth kind of highlighted to us of naming where we are and naming who we are, so relevant, the ways we move in and out of privilege, the lands that we find ourselves in. And also just you know how do we reckon with that not just in a rhetorical sense but also in how we conduct our actions and our politics and the study in the research that we're doing. So I would say on my end as a descendant of slaves but also as someone who unfortunately was born on several land in occupied, that is occupied by the United States that I'm also aware of trying to as best as possible.
Highlight the story of the oppressed reading against the grain and very much paying homage to subaltern studies, while also being open to new modes and new ways, new ways of thinking. So I think that in some ways that experience of interpretation is really allowing oneself to be proactive in self reflection without navel gazing Of course, while also making room for making room and space for reinterpreting the archives and so I just want to like point that out just to say that I'm really impressed by the work that people are doing and that there is that proactive reflection on the part of of Emma of Ruth and Phoebe so just wanted to open up with that. And yeah, I, one of the things that I really liked what you said in was just that opportunity to be reflexive and one of the things that I've been very embedded in has been the idea of cultural safety which was developed by indigenous Marty nurses and our Taro and New Zealand, and a fundamental tenet of that is that capacity to problem retires one's location and positioning, and specifically kind of look at what one's positioning does what one's. What oneself carries as a culture beer, because we're all culture bearers, but specifically, the culture of health can, and I'm thinking about the fields in which Phoebe, Emma, need not working as well and of course you Jessica and then in terms of. I think it's quite difficult to be reflective on your own and more and more I'm coming to the idea that we, we can be reflexive when we are challenged by the other, whoever the other is.
And I think, specifically, the other who has lists positional power than we do. And I'm kind of wondering how we can have those kind of collective conversations that facilitate this kind of awareness. And I guess in all of this how we can do it in ways that hold us accountable for how we conduct, what it is that we do so I'm just thinking of nurses, and I've been trying to find different ways using artistic and creative methods. So, you know, colleagues who are involved in Theatre of the Oppressed for example, you know, working with students and so on. And I know moving away a little bit from what we're talking about. But, but to further open up what it has been talking about, you know, against the grain i think is also about having really difficult conversations and a space for them. And the capacity to hold our own fear, anxiety, our desire to fix things and manage things and control things, you know, and be with that uncertainty and discomfort that might be prison.
One of the things just to talk a little bit about looking at the art and colonialism database on our paychecks that when I think about interpretation of care. One thing that I admired there is the sort of if you saw on the slide that Ruth showed, and that image showed there are, as part of the project there was. There's this, there's this captioning under each image, and I think both MMA had this instinct probably to to leap from rhX straight to that institution where that holds that object and find the different ways in which the image might be described. And when I talked to Jessica the other day she talked about these them, the captions they're being almost like a form of of alt text that would normally sort of be on the web like behind the picture but but here are visible but one thing that occurs to me looking at them is, is just the, the care with which you can see the person who wrote it and I think many of them were were students working on a project if you can just, you can just observe the, the careful process of looking that made those that made this captions and they sort of, when you sometimes contrast them to alternative like what I noticed it just sort of, sort of carefully lays out you know here's a portrait of a woman named Elizabeth I'm going to not remember her last name but I'm wearing a blue and white dress. And then, wherever it is at the Smithsonian or at the British Museum or somewhere, it will say like she's in federalist costume, and and it's just very different kind of approach and you know when might be useful but but it takes time and it takes care to, to just to just look and and patiently observe and and write that kind of description. Phoebe, is that lists about time but a way of being in the world and the way of thinking because I kind of think that sometimes we can say, Oh, it's about time and I am sorry I keep referring to being a health professional but, you know, the excuse for not caring as always like, we've got so much pressure we've got to make decisions really quickly. But is it about a kind of commitment to doing things in a political way that you know as, as time to pin.
Yes, that sounds right to me. Though I feel that it also that that whole perspective will lead you to be able to commit time and labor. We're sorry, I don't want to. I didn't want to. I was just I was just gonna sort of think about this, this problem of interpretation, I've been thinking a lot about and I sort of gestures gesture towards this and my intuition about about sort of the ecosystem of the archive on, you know I am sort of positioned in my, in my role between, between our sort of backup house folks are archivists our curators and then our researchers were sort of public services is sort of that frontline staff and. And there's so much work that is happening interpretive work that is happening on the part of the researcher, that we as professionals as the people who uphold these systems don't hear about, and don't get to integrate into those systems.
We don't even have the opportunity to sort of consider it. And, and, and I think that my, I think that might be a real problem. Because when you're talking about when you're trying to make a more just archive when you're trying to make a more inclusive space that benefits, you know that speaks to as many possibilities as possible, right, like, you know, one database is going to be able to, as it currently envisioned and I don't want to sort of cut off the possibility for some sort of imagined, amazing feature but like, as it stands right now our systems could never hold the complexity that is humanity that exists in our, in our space in our collections. Obviously, it is biased towards one kind of a one kind of experience over another but like one document is just, it contains so many multitudes that it's going to be difficult to find as many discovery portals to accessing it as it truly holds. But we, but there are people who are doing work to to flush that out. And we don't support that we don't sort of allow for that symbiosis that idea that we are all sort of working with on it.
I don't want to say a team but we're all sort of swimming in the same water. And we all take care of these documents in different ways but we're not speaking to each other enough about what that looks like. And I don't feel like I'm, I'm, I don't feel like I learned enough for my patrons about my collection and that's not because I'm not having conversations with them. It's because we're just not in touch enough. And I don't really know what the solution is but I think that is a metric of care, it's a way of caring for, you know, my, my patronage it's a way for caring for my collection it's a way of respecting the, the humanity that is in our documents, it's a way of respecting the people who are created them and who are represented in them. But can they archive ever encompass encompass a human. I don't know if that's, I don't know if that's attainable.
That's an interesting point because as Ruth was talking about, you know, this question of how do we facilitate these sorts of encounters in a sense that you were saying into sort of the encounters that might bring about these kinds of shifts I was also I was thinking, how does that. What what are those encounters to someone working with, with archives and. But also, I think, you know, working with particular working on material like like the material that we have an art hX is very it's very traumatic history but it's also a history that's still very much present because it's you know it's informed Healthcare's, you know, both in there and brief pointed out. And so I wanted to I've been thinking too about how how these kinds of encounters between archivists and scholars and practitioners you know how they are also kind of perhaps, perhaps worried that that might be one way of facilitating some of these conversations. But yeah, I mean, I was also trained by Modi, nurses, and cultural safety and i mean i think that i i've increasingly been coming back to some of those conversations recently and I mean I think all of you are also talking about relation ality and positions.
And, you know, in really important ways to. And so I mean I want I want to just open the floor because I thought there might be. There might be things that you're seeing in each other's presentations that resonated with your own your own position your own work that you might want to highlight. So I'm gonna let you stick to each other. Yeah, I actually, I'd like to bring up something that roots said about complicity. And, and when you were talking Ruth about struggling with like being complicit in in this system on health care that really resonated with me because I struggle with being complicit and in my own system. And I was wondering if we could all speak a little bit about how complicity and attempting to care or practices of care intersect and push against one another.
Maybe Ruth you can sort of expand upon your, your thoughts on complicity. Well, one of the things that I'm really interested in is how we have the most tender hearted sweet kind lovely people that become health professionals, and then something happens in the process of working in institutions where that kindness gets eroded and people get burnt out and exhausted. And, you know, one of the things that's kind of emblematic of of health systems, particularly in stateless societies because that's what I'm most familiar with, but also in the UK where I've worked. Is this kind of what someone has described as callous disregard so you know how do we go from caring deeply for the integrity of humans and respect that you've been talking about you know that that marks, how you treat humans in the archive, you so how can we hold that when we work in systems that are very bruising and struggling under all kinds of, you know, imperatives to deliver deliver things that are kind of unattainable. You know, if we really want to keep treating people as humans and maintaining the happiness so you know that's something that I've struggled with, you know, as a health professional and then you know Estes and I kind of think you know care which comes from curates, as you all know, you know, I kind of think we were challenged that way to somehow.
care for ourselves and for others, and these kinds of quite bruising challenging environments, you know. And so for me it's about how can I sustain myself and I keep going back to cut working collectively with people, you know, and nurturing each other and trying to identify what our values are and trying to, you know, support each other to do that kind of work. Yeah. I'm not sure yes so and then also in terms of the complicity question I think it's, you know, nurses in particular, our job is to kind of keep our heads down and keep systems going. And because we're so busy doing busy work we don't always ask. On what basis that work has been done, and who gets good care. You know, so I think that's all part of it and this evening actually I was listening to a talk by Lauren bill and, you know, I'm thinking very much about,
you know, who gets to be cared for, you know, who gets to be nurtured and and how that happens, you know, and, and, um, it's these big glaring iniquities that we're all aware of in. Sorry, that was a ramble And that was great. Thank you. And then, and then as I'm also thinking of, you know, it knows work, and thinking about the kind of messaging and, you know, who gets to receive messages about how some key in ways that are relevant to the context, you know.
So just reflecting on on evening's talk as well. So, I'll intervene as well, but I don't think I'll turn my video off because my internet connection is not so good. But I think one of the things that I feel it's been very important for me in terms of this, this question that you bring up. Emma regarding consistency and care, especially within institutions, is very much for myself thinking about Audrey Lord's work. And, and her kind of practice of care piece of be her cancer journals, where it was during this very dark period of having to deal with her morbidity and really face that for head on and and trying to reckon with physical pain and documenting that I'm with friends with a community of people that she was able to your eyes for herself. What care could mean, not just on an individual basis but also through a community. Community and formed feminist process. And I think in some ways it matters and so far the.
It's true that struggle, and it's through an embodied struggle that often, we can come to know and we can come to do the collective work that Ruth has has brought up, and with, with institutions, in some ways, there's, there's not really a blueprint. fe like it depending on which institution people are at, especially how, given how so many institutions that have wealth have been able to do so through some form of exploitation, you know, whether it's you know obviously with Princeton, being planned, but also the ways in which you're some of the dorms had what we're a slave quarters and and you know that through your work both Phoebe and MN, obviously Anna and Jessica, and you're thinking about how the architect even the architecture of institutions is predicated on this, this imbalance of power of world. What would I think it's been exciting to get nevertheless even at a place like Princeton his students have been able to organize faculty members have been able to organize to challenge some of that and the renaming of the public policy school to, you know, having the Department of African American Studies be a department, all of which I think are ways in which institutional change can help to really enliven the moment and really speak to the moment, so that the complicity that you speak of Emma can it can be shaken up of it so I think the.
Yeah, even at the institution like Princeton that there has been in recent histories, a way to allow for more thorough reflective and collective change because of the activism that has been happening. But that some of those changes aren't enough of course and, but even just being able to like, ask the questions is one of the first steps to hopefully approaching the archives and appreciating what has been done at these institutions with some form of care. I'll stop there.
Thank you so much. I mean, I think, yeah, we, we, Princeton, has an amazing activist student body that I'm constantly and. And they've done great work. And so much of the university moving, I feel like the way that it has been because of that student activism, which is, which is wonderful. It gives me hope the students give me up every day. They're, they're incredible baby Do you have anything you want to say on it happens. Yeah. I think it's a question that we all need to sit, really.
Not just not just the panelists. I'm just aware of a time I just wanted to, I don't want to disrupt the discussion, but I I wanted to Jessica, if you had anything that you wanted to ask. I do I yeah, just to thank you all so much. I mean, for sharing your thoughts and and your practice and I mean I, my question is, sort of, it's been it's informed by everything that you all said and I think you all have sort of answered it but I wondered if we could just talk about this, like, very explicitly a practice of care is being informed by an ethics of care and, and I'm wondering what the stakes are of care for you all. And how have you developed your own ethics of care and in what ways were you practicing, you know care and how has has your, your own approach to your in the way that you're thinking about ethics shifted potentially throughout kind of your own careers and and different practices. jumpin I'll jump in collecting their thoughts, I think that this question of the stakes is like is important to me because you know as i said i'm guided by this idea that everybody is worthy of special kind of access and Special Collections or representation and special collections and, you know, reading the work of, of, Michelle Caswell, an archivist and scholar at UCLA, and she wrote a she's written several essays about the sort of ramifications of going to a place like an archive, which is, you know, supposed to be the place of record as I mentioned you know the place of hit this is where the history is. And not seeing yourself. And what that can do for people, you know, not just our students but you know any sort of any sort of scholar any sort of researcher, who's looking for themselves in the archive and they don't find them.
And, you know, even as a white woman, you know, and I don't see other women in a space it's, it's, It's demoralizing. You know, the United States has never had a female president. There is.
That is a that is a ceiling, right, and it says to you, that you don't belong there. And what is, what are the stakes of saying you don't belong in the annals of history. You don't belong, Princeton doesn't consider you important enough to keep your records.
That's an incredibly credibly terrible thing message to send to anybody. And I think it helps perpetuate this idea that there are some people who are more important than others based on you know a system that has been decided on by a certain group of people. You know I work with documenting women's ownership markings in the front of our books, doing an inventory and. And I get so angry. Count going through and finding these women's names and seeing that they haven't been, they haven't even been mentioned in our catalog will have, you know, a record that will have a beautiful and very well researched note on what the binding is like for the book. And there isn't even a note telling you that this woman owned this book, and her name is in front of it.
because she didn't matter. And for me, you know, people matter. And by needs matter to right like I'm not gonna say bodies don't matter, but people matter. And, and they matter then they matter done in a matter now. And how can we, how can we honor that, and that's what I try and that is that is my ethics of care in the archive, how do how can we make people know that they matter and tell them that they matter.
I think sometimes when I think about the word care in the context of our work, it's most often comes up as collections care and I actually in my work do a lot of physical care of the objects. And so, one of my projects recently was just to help prepare my library materials to move out of the building and to make them be able to move back in and so it's really a lot of physical like. Will this box, hold this object can it can it move in, and there's really a lot of of effort and, and care of materials, and there's less conversation about. There are ways in which, you know, I know, the profession is is more and more broadening and that access like Emma talked about is, is very important to people broadly, but there's just less. Talk about care. To my knowledge, for people.
And for me, I think, where I met at the moment is really thinking about intergenerational kinds of legacies and conversations and nurturing and, yeah, you know, must be, you know, when you hit that Jubilee mark that happens. And, and just thinking like, you know, I'm not gonna be around forever. So, what do I want to leave behind. And, you know, how do I nurture future generations and I guess for me that's also about teaching but having intergenerational friendships, relationships and connections, and which kind of relates to something. I said about just, you know, continuing to stay open and receive feedback and be learning you know so I think that's one of the ways that that I think I practice care is to nurture and support. generations behind me in front of me around me. I'm also going to intervene the turn off my video. I would say for me the, the ethics and practice of carers is quite difficult in some ways and I think that I've gone through different phases of not providing care for myself because in many ways, the discipline of practicing science at one point and also even history in graduate school is predicated on a kind of Neil liberalisation of the self, because we're highly encouraged to be as productive as possible.
And then that gets, in turn, put into the ways in which we approach or at least in my case approach, knowledge, information and it's it's in many ways. moving to Europe, where people actually have paid vacation and holidays that I've really learned to slow down and to really do the work of attending to careful reading, attending to collect the gravy and attending to just having the chance to to deeply engage with the works of people who've who've done and written. Beautiful essays and memoirs, whether it's employers the undying which is a cancer patient memoir of sorts and really thinking actively at the intersections of the, of what it means to have cancer and to reckon with how the US medical system does not help with that, too. You know, even just like recently reading a net courting reads work, and thinking about the neglected origin stories of black Americans with that comes with to Claudia rankings work as a poet and scholar her, her. Her work has really been inspirational for me to actively think about what it's America and Jasmine Ward's essay last year around, losing her partner has been also quite a lunatic. So in some ways ethics could care for me and the practice has also meant just like slowing down, reflecting and doing the careful work of engaging with people whose who've been able to to really meditate on what it means to be in exist in this world, while also navigating through and weaving through stories that haven't been able to always be reflected and popular mainstream media and so in some ways the ethics of Karen is an ongoing kind of battle for me to figure out on my own, with my own practice, but it's also something that that comes with trying to work through the limitations of time and space and I really liked with Ruth had to say this intergenerational thing is also so important and, and for people like myself, where my ancestors don't really have any documents beyond the ones that exist when they migrated to the United States during the 70s and 80s. I'm trying to find archives within my family by just talking to my elders, as painful as that can be.
And as fragmented as it can be between Haitian Creole and French and English that human archive. The that I can get from my relatives has been so pivotal for me to understand my own kind of family history, even when we don't have physical archives textual archives to put us in. In certain histories. Now, and there. Thank you all that was really beautiful. I'm sorry Jessica did I told her you know I just want to say thank you all so much. And I just want to tell Sammy it sounds like across all of you, you know, we really talking about how this is your ethics and practice of care so connected to your ways of being in the world and how that is of course dynamic and, and I think connected to earlier conversations about the archive, you know in what ways could acknowledging the dynamism of our own beings and beings in the world, impact the way that archives are constructed or change over time, to allow for, you know, different stories to kind of come to the fore so anyway yeah that's just. Thank you, though.
Yeah, it was really amazing. my screen when I used to be a nurse and one of the things I've been really struck by. In the course of doing this new project and listening to is also the similarities between how archives function, you know, and how bodies function in these different spaces as archives on their own. And, you know, the ways that in different ways archives and bodies become the sets of extraction and. And I think for me working kind of between those different fields is has also meant having to think about as a scholar how my own practices. Reinforce or how they rub up against and can change that, but I think as Jessica pointed out and as you will really highlighted
so much of this is about a particular orientation and understanding and understanding these, these bodies of repositories is not merely repositories right there's something more holistic and dynamic and and relational, and so I really thank you again you again for this conversation that there are two questions in the q amp a that I think. Take us back to some of these. These understandings of what an archive can be. And so I'm going to just read them out and then maybe if one or two of you want to want to respond, we can do that and then we'll, we'll close the panel, because I I don't want to keep you longer than you need to be we all need to be careful and restful right now so the first question is from my colleague. Hello, Brazil, and he asks, I was wondering how how there are ways for archivist and librarians to integrate new ways of thinking about archival and
I kind of graphical material through the lens of critical population as theorized by, say dr Hartman. Does anyone want to take on that question. And I can say that we've, we've talked about this in the archival silences Working Group at Princeton we started our, our working group actually by reading. Sunny Artemis Jose and I think this is a really tricky question, because, You know, as I mentioned, like the archive is supposed to represent you know the facts of a document and and critical, critical population sort of invites you to consider those facts, consider beyond those facts.
And so I would leave it to archivists talk more about that but I know that they, I know that they have and so I would, I would leave it to the archival community to sort of consider what the boundaries of critical formulation could be in archival description, I think it's a really tricky question. I can say that I, I will say admiration of study Hartman's work and I would say that, you know, what's so brilliant about it is you know what the word, the power of her. Her ability to kind of evoke concretely what personal connection she has to archives, ones that are missing ones that are present, as well as her kind of intellectual journey and the ways we can can th