I pursue research that explores the intersections between rhetoric, LGBTQ archives, and materiality. I frame the importance of materiality both literally, in the sense of physical materials and their circulation, as well as more conceptually as the material-rhetorical practices engaged in the formation and curation of archives. Rhetoric and Composition has long been interested in archival research, but research that centers archives themselves—i.e., that takes an archive as its subject, rather than the histories contained within an archive—remains an emergent and undertheorized conversation. Synthesizing insights from queer theory and rhetoric, new materialism, and archival theory, my research asks what might become visible when we center archives and archival practices in rhetorical inquiry.
As part of this research, my dissertation explores the material-rhetoric of the Williams-Nichols Archive, an archive of LGBTQ materials now housed at the University of Louisville and collected by Louisville activist David Williams. Examining the formation and movement of the archive—from grassroots social movement spaces, to David’s home, and eventually to the University of Louisville—I argue that the production of LGBTQ archives demonstrates a form of circulating queer rhetoric, that this rhetoric engages and entangles a number of human and non-human phenomena, and that this entanglement challenges the practices of both professional archivists and grassroots stakeholders. In this work, I aim to both advance understandings of queer rhetoric and archives, and also to consider the ways a more developed understanding of how archives are formed might inflect our archival methodologies. Additionally, I have published a single-authored article at the intersection of the rhetoric of health and medicine and disability studies, titled “‘there is Already Something Wrong’: Toward a Rhetorical Framework for Aging,” in Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric and Society.
In the future, I hope to use my research to advance understandings of queer rhetoric and archives, as well as of methodological practices of archival research. I see my research trajectory as centering on the following questions:
- What might we gain through an understanding of archives as rhetoric, rather than as a container or repository of texts?
- How can we become better attuned to the deeply rhetorical negotiations between professional archivists and the collectors and communities with whom they interact, especially in cases where those communities are subject to marginalization and oppression? What challenges do these interactions pose, and how might effective strategies be extended and developed for cross-disciplinary archival work?
- How is the materiality of archives—their literal, physical matter—entangled with their discursive and symbolic dimensions, and how can we better account for materiality’s role in the rhetoricity of archives?
In Rhetoric and Composition, we need more work that examines the material rhetoric of LGBTQ archives, as well as LGBTQ rhetoric more broadly. To that end, my first book project will expand upon my dissertation to advance the connections between queer rhetoric, new materialism, and the production of archives. Further, a gap in my research is insights from Indigenous epistemologies as they relate to (and critique) new materialism. I plan to address this gap as I revise my dissertation into a monograph. I intend to submit a proposal for this book project to the New Directions in Rhetoric and Materiality series at the Ohio State University Press, edited by Barbara Biesecker, Wendy S. Hesford, and Christa Teston.
While my dissertation focuses largely on re-thinking how scholars come to understand and research physical LGBTQ archives, I also want to draw on my expertise not only in archival rhetoric but also in digital rhetoric, new media, and web-development to create a public-facing component of my research. Currently, for example, I am developing a small-scale prototype platform to create and distribute oral-history archives as a way of thinking through questions regarding the circulation and accessibility of public history. This work is very much at the conceptual stage, but I hope to eventually work with other oral-history and archival researchers to develop it further and operationalize it within the field and larger public spheres. Noting scholarship that responds to the difficulties of access in both physical and institutional archives, in this future work I hope to become even more actively engaged in the production of archives, using my knowledge of digital rhetoric and technologies to help local communities in developing activist and socially useful archives.