CfP: Re-tracing the Archive: Affects and Ethics

Organizer-refereed panel at the SCS Annual Meeting 2024 (Chicago)

Organized by Francesca Beretta (Yale) and Christopher Londa (Yale / Graz)

In recent years, the concept of “the archive” has emerged as a site of critical engagement across the humanities. Not just a synonym for a cache of documents, the term encompasses any traces of the past as they are curated and collected. The multiple archives composing “the archive” include, but are not limited to, bodies, books, letters and ledgers, ruins and restorations, forests and ice cores, gene sequences and data sets. As editors of fragments, catalogs, and databases, classicists have long been archivists.

In fields such as Black studies, postcolonialism, queer and feminist theory, and dance & movement studies, “archival turns” articulate two orientations toward the archive that have remained undertheorized in classical studies: the affective and the ethical.

After Foucault in “The Lives of Infamous Men” so vividly described his affective response to the archive, humanists from all corners have acknowledged the emotive and affective dynamics at the point of contact between archive and scholar, connecting these encounters to a range of political commitments and epistemic habits. For fields concerned with more recent histories and legacies of oppression, an urge to respond to the archive’s silence, violence, and failure has spurred new methods and modes of reading (see bibliography).

As classicists take inspiration from disciplines where the ethical stakes are more obvious and the affective responses are stronger, we seek to tease out the underpinnings of our own affects and ethics in our encounters with the classical archive’s silences, violences, affordances, and failures.

We invite the submission of abstracts for 20-minute papers that respond to the following questions or other aspects of our theme:

-How does our disciplinary formation as classicists write scripts for our affective responses? What political commitments and epistemic habits inform these responses?

-What approaches to ancient sources can classicists learn from developments in archival theory?

-How do broader theories of the archive illuminate the archival logics of classical studies?

-How might different understandings of the archive repair or respond to archival violence?

-What impact do different media have on archival affects and ethics?

-What kinds of archives can we imagine for the future of the field?

Anonymized abstracts of no more than 500 words (excluding bibliography) should be submitted as .pdf or .doc attachment to [email protected] by February 15, 2023; the subject line of the email should be “Re-tracing the Archive: Affects and Ethics.”

In selecting abstracts, the organizers will prioritize proposals that show a close engagement with the theme while contributing to the overall balance of the panel.

For any questions, please contact the organizers, Francesca Beretta ([email protected]) and Christopher Londa ([email protected]).

Select bibliography

  • Ahmed, Sara. 2006. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham, N.C., London: Duke University Press.
  • Best, Stephen, and Sharon Marcus. 2009. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations 108 (1): 1–21.
  • Foucault, Michel. 2000. “Lives of Infamous Men.” In Power, edited by James D. Faubion, 157–75. Essential works of Foucault, 1954-1984 v.3. New York: New Press.
  • Hartman, Saidiya. 2008. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe 26 (2): 1–14.
  • Kazanjian, David. 2015. “Scenes of Speculation.” Social Text 33 (4): 77–84.
  • Mbembe, Achille. 2002. “The Power of the Archive and Its Limits.” In Refiguring the Archive, edited by Carolyn Hamilton, 19–26. Dordrecht, London: Kluwer Academic.
  • Morrison, Toni. 1992. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization 1990. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press.
  • Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 1997. “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading; Or, You’re so Paranoid, You Probably Think This Introduction Is About You.” In Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction, edited by Eve K. Sedgwick, 1–38. Series Q. Durham, N.C., London: Duke University Press.
  • Taylor, Diana. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Cultural Memory and Performance in the Americas. A John Hope Franklin Center book. Durham, N.C., London: Duke University Press.
  • Telò, Mario. 2020. Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy. Classical memories/modern identities. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.