Homegoing: On the Need for Black Memory Work and Black Archival Practices
Dr. Tonia Sutherland | University of California, Los Angeles
Archives in the United States typically comprise information such as names, genealogies, and narratives. To encounter Blackness in American archives, by contrast, often means that one must instead confront—and endeavor to make sense of—numbers, ciphers, and fragments. As a result, doing justice to the Black past frequently entails an intentional revising of what has been said about it. Black memory work does just this, scavenging some of the most corrupt archival materials to “imagine the past” and “remember the future,” as Carlos Fuentes (1985) calls us to do. It is not, however, just traditional archivy with which Black memory work is concerned. As Tonia Sutherland argues in this keynote address, Black memory work also has a history of revolutionizing the archival impulse to reflect a more radical aesthetic, speaking directly into the wounds of what has been withheld. In this talk, Sutherland pairs material from her book, Resurrecting the Black Body: Digital Afterlives in the 21st Century with examples of both historical and contemporary Black memory work, making compelling arguments about the importance of Black memory work and Black archival practices for both American archivy and Black liberation—past, present, and future.
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