In 2019, I successfully defended my dissertation and earned a doctorate in the field of rhetoric and composition from the University of Louisville. My project, titled The Emergent Matter of Archives: A Rhetorical Investigation of the Queer Formation of the Williams-Nichols Archive, explored the historical construction of an archive of LGBTQ material now held by the University of Louisville.
In this project, I used archival research methods to reconstruct the history of the archive and its role in LGBTQ activism in Louisville from thousands of pages of historical documents. Additionally, I designed and collected oral history interviews with key stakeholders in the formation and collection of the archive, including its founder and multiple archivists at the University.
To carry out my investigation, I extended key scholarship in rhetorical theory, new materialist thinking, and media studies. Of primary importance were theories of documentation practices and their social effects. Sections of the final document (171 manuscript pages) were revised into a research article and published in Rhetoric Review, a leading peer-reviewed academic journal.
This project, additionally, required extensive use of my project management skills. The sheer amount of material I read required flexible, adaptive, and iterative research methods and documentation processes of my own. None of the archival material could be checked out from UofL’s Archives and Special Collections, which required complex note-taking and tagging systems as I reconstructed historical narratives across many, often ambiguous, historical documents.
Over roughly a year and a half, this project involved:
My dissertation can be downloaded from the University of Louisville’s Database of Electronic Theses and Dissertations using the link below. I have also included the abstract for the dissertation.
Scholarly conversations across disciplines have asked researchers to consider archive as a site of power—often framed in terms of archives’ potential impact on history and practices of knowledge making more generally. This dissertation contributes to such conversations as they relate to queer archives and material rhetoric, exploring the Williams-Nichols Archive, an LGBTQ archive housed at the University of Louisville. I extend interdisciplinary scholarship to argue for approaching archives as rhetorical emergences rather than as containers or locations for discovery, a perspective that foregrounds the archive and archival practices as the subject of research. Drawing on archival research and oral history interviews, I develop a materialist perspective on the rhetoric of the Williams-Nichols Archive that synthesizes insights from queer rhetoric and new materialism to consider the complex rhetoric involved in the collection, curation, and maintenance of LGBTQ archives. This research is guided by the following primary questions: How have material phenomena—such as collection, circulation, classification, and the physical matter of archival holdings—participated in the Williams-Nichols Archive’s rhetorical emergence? What can this tell us about LGBTQ archives, and how might an attention to these materialities expand understandings of both queer rhetoric and archival theory in our field? Ultimately, I argue that attending to materiality reveals less visible forms of rhetoric and queer archival activism that can expand our understandings of queer rhetoric, material rhetoric, and archives.