Mapping invisible cities: Addressing the complexities of achieving polyphonic archives

Maxwell, Susan (2016) Mapping invisible cities: Addressing the complexities of achieving polyphonic archives. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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In the 1990s and 2000s, the theory on which professional practice of archivists and records managers drew was reviewed, in light of cultural and technological changes and of postmodernist philosophies. In particular, the theoretical narrative of the “neutral archives” was terminally disrupted, and more explicit responsibility attributed to the profession for actively seeking to redress the way that power imbalances in contemporary society were reflected in ‘the archive’.

Professional archivists and records managers began to look for ways in which as professionals they could counteract these areas of neglect. There had not been any systematic analysis of “marginality” or “marginalised” as a concept, as opposed to particular instances thereof. In addition, the focus of attention in many of the responses had been those records related to situations or groups that already had been politicised. This combination seemed problematic, as a conceptualisation of marginality or exclusion was emerging and consolidating, one that focused primarily on situations of political instability or disenfranchisement or of conflict. While the disruption of the narrative of the neutral archive could in theory have resonance for all information professionals in all working environments, the particulars of the examples of exclusion and marginalisation were not applicable in every scenario. That is to say, those archivists and records managers who were not responsible for records that were in some clear way related to a politicised group or situation could assume on that basis that they were not, in their professional capacity, colluding in exclusion, marginalisation or neglect.

By articulating the conceptualisation of marginality and seeking to focus on possible domestic and quotidian means by which power imbalances and exclusions are manifested, this research contributes to the extension of the relevance of the debate to politically stable environments and everyday activities, in addition to unstable or post-conflict situations. By focusing on the potentially dynamic relationship between the information curator and the records for which they were responsible – rather than the records creators or subjects – it also draws out additional opportunities for professional engagement with social and cultural imbalances.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2018 13:58
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:37

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