Reciprocal Gifts: A Theoretical Framework for Developing a Rhetorical Archive

As an interdisciplinary project, this dissertation occupies the intersection of several fields, including archival studies, rhetoric, and interface design. As a boundary object, the archive is  studied across the disciplines and is examined through both practical and theoretical lenses. Within the scholarship from each field, there is recognition that the archive functions as a site of power in addition to serving as a site of preservation. This is a power that can be harnessed to enact social justice by increasing visibility for marginalized groups and creating a more equitable representation in the archival record, but it is also possible for oppressive social structures to be reinscribed in the archive as a reflection of dominant cultural and institutional values and norms.

As archivists, rhetoricians, and interface designers increasingly engage in the development of new archival records and exhibits, it is important to understand the traditions and emerging contributions that each field’s theories and practices offer as they relate to the archive—its construction, reception, and use. Examining the scholarship from each field reveals important insights into the archive although they come from different perspectives, and overlaying these transdisciplinary discussions can lead to useful implications for archival work, specifically in linking archival design processes to users’ meaning-making activities. The purpose of this chapter is to review the relevant scholarship from these disciplines to illustrate the ways in which they overlap, while also making an argument for how synthesizing concepts between them is mutually beneficial, enriching each field’s approach to the archive and enhancing the connections between archival theory and practice for those within these disciplines. In identifying the reciprocal gifts that can be shared between archival studies, rhetoric, and interface design, this chapter is also identifying the positionality of this project within each field and articulating the broader scholarly purposes of this project.

Chapter Contents:

Reconceptualizing the Archive: The Post-Custodial Turn in Archival Studies

Tracing the Rise of Appraisal 

Redefining Archives Necessitating Appraisal

Understanding the Archive as a Political Space

A New Archive: From Social Justice to Cultural Archive

Reconceptualizing the Archivist: Contemporary Reimaginings of the Archivist’s Role

Archivists’ Recognition of Mediatory Role

Archivist as Knowledge Manager in Turn Toward Users:

Shaping through Appraisal

Creating New Archives: From Record Appraiser to Record Creator

Rhetorical Claims on the Archival Space: Power, Knowledge, and User-focus

Rhetorical Conceptualizations of the Archive

The Archive as a Site of Politics and Power

Knowledge Production From and Through the Archive

Theorizing Use: Transactional Meaning-Making from a User Perspective  

The Archive as Persuasive History by Interested Historians

Resolving Tensions in Archival Studies with Rhetorical Genre Theory and Feminist Practices

Rhetorical Genre Theory 

Feminist Rhetorical Practices

Reciprocal Gifts: Rhetorical Production of Archives and the Importance of Archival Traditions

Archiving the Archive: Archival Processes as Rhetorical Elements

Archival Interface: Designing Access, Inscribing Power, Composing Arguments

Delivery as Interface Design 

Interface in New Media Studies

Interface in Archival Studies

Interface in Rhetoric

Interface in Rhetoric: Power and Agency

Interface and Rhetoric: The Role of Users

Interface in Rhetoric: Authorship and Digital Rhetoric

At the Intersection of Archival Studies, Rhetoric, and Interface: A Framework for the Dissertation

Reciprocal Gifts: Cross-Disciplinary Applications of Theory and Practice

Around Her Table: Rhetorical Design and Development of a Digital Archive and Exhibit

Works Cited

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