Digital Heritage 2018 3rd International Congress & Expo
Back To Schedule
Saturday, October 27 • 9:00am - 10:30am
Panel: Feminist Ethics for Digital Heritage: Applying a Feminist Ethics of Care to Digital Archives and Archiving to Redress Structural Inequities LIMITED
Limited Capacity seats available

In a 2016 Archivaria article, “From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in Archives,” Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor posed a challenge to the archival profession calling for a shift from an archival ethics grounded in an individual, rights-based model to a feminist ethics of care model. In a feminist ethics approach, archivists are conceptualized as caregivers, bound to records creators, subjects, users, and communities through a web of mutual affective responsibility based on radical empathy. This panel examines how taking up such an ethical approach reshapes archival projects that employ digital technology for documenting, conserving, and sharing the cultural heritage of marginalized communities in the U.S. A feminist ethics approach calls for archivists at every step of a project, from platform design to digitization to curation, to rethink what ethical relationships between records creators, subjects, users, and communities, as well as other cultural heritage professionals, looks like. We argue that these relationships should recognize, challenge, and redress structural power inequities.

Each of the panelists, from their positions as archival scholars and practicing archivists, illustrates how such an ethical shift reshapes their work.

In her paper, Michelle Caswell utilizes as a case study the South Asian American Digital Archive’s attempts to document Islamophobia to point to the importance of centering privacy, trust, and empathy when working with targeted communities.

Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez’s presentation examines her recent transition to the University of California, Irvine’s Special Collections and Archives. She charts how the tremendous diversity of that campus and its archival initiatives is reshaping her archival practice, including how through support for her colleagues work she extends an understanding of ethics to relationships between archivists.

Dinah Handel’s talk addresses how an ethic of care informs her negotiation of community-based audio-visual digitization projects, including her work with the XFR Collective and the queer experimental film festival MIX.

Finally, Marika Cifor analyzes community-based arts organization Visual AIDS’ digitization of its records documenting the work of artists living with HIV and AIDS for access and preservation. She highlights concerns around privacy and disclosure, expands understandings of preservation, and exposes the complexities of ongoing relationships with records creators and subjects in digital spaces.

Together these talks illustrate how a feminist ethics approach enables culturally situated, mutually dependent, ongoing relationships to be built and sustained between the diverse stakeholders of digital archival projects. Following presentations from the panelists, attendees and speakers will participate in small-group conversations focused on the application of feminist ethics as a theory and practice within their work.


Michelle Caswell

University of California, Los Angeles
avatar for Marika Cifor

Marika Cifor

Indiana University Bloomington

avatar for Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez

Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez

Assistant University Archivist, UC Irvine

Dinah Handel

Digitization Services Manager, Stanford University