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ACA 2021 Conference: An Interview with Isabel Carlin

27 May 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

[Dark blue and red banner of the ACA Virtual Conference 2021 - Home Improvement. Featuring drawings of a house, a hammer, a nail, a construction barrier, and a ruler]

The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profile of Isabel Carlin, Master student at the University of British Columbia iSchool. 

Can you tell us your school and program of study?

I'm in the dual Master of Archival Studies and Master of Library and Information Studies (MAS/LIS) program at the University of British Columbia iSchool.

What is your presentation about?

My presentation, "Home Archives: Online Political Record-keeping in the Diaspora" is about digital recordkeeping practices at Sulong, which is a Filipinx-Canadian student organization at UBC. I've been a member of Sulong since January, 2020, and since the COVID-19 pandemic we've had a huge increase in membership and, consequently, a proliferation of new electronic records within the organization. This presentation is an opportunity for us as an organization to think through the material and political implications of our digital technology usage, and a way for me to learn about how archival theory applies to real-world communities and situations.

I've been particularly intrigued by the general theoretical trend towards immateriality in discussions of electronic archives — what 'is' a digital record, how are archival bonds made 'real' in a virtual environment, what is originality, etc. It's true that digital records are different from physical records for many reasons, and those reasons are deserving of study. At the same time, I want to explicitly situate workers and infrastructures in our discussions of digital technology, in alignment with the leftist analysis that Sulong brings to its work.

What brought you to the field of archival studies and/or practice?

My undergraduate degree at University of Toronto was in Indigenous Studies, History, and French Studies, which ended up creating a pretty cool intersection of post-/anticolonial studies situated across the globe (here on Turtle Island, in Southeast and East Asia, and in former French colonies in North Africa and the Antilles). Discussions of colonial and imperialist power, particularly in the context of research ethics, led me to think about the ethics of data storage and collection and, more broadly, knowledge systems. I applied to the UBC iSchool thinking about how hegemonic archives have been used as tools of imperialist power, and I'm currently grappling with what I feel is a lack of leftist, materialist archival theory, which I hope to contribute to in my future work. 

What kinds of archival futures are you invested in? Where do you see change happening? What changes are needed? Where do you hope the profession will be in 10 years?

I'm interested in anti-imperialist and revolutionary archival futures. As a member of a movement for liberation in the Philippines, I know that archives will continue to be useful as we carry our ancestral stories of resistance; today, for example, I still know the name of Gabriela Silang, an Ilocana revolutionary hero who led uprisings against Spanish colonialism in the 1700s, because the Filipino people continue to remember our struggles of resistance. I'd love to see a greater recognition of non-Western ontologies in archival theory, and to see how archives embedded in activist communities (like Sulong!) can leverage the tools of Eurocentric theory and practice for revolutionary aims. 

Are there any other sessions at the conference that you’re excited to attend? 

I have to say, all of the sessions look incredible. I wish I could attend all of them!! I'm especially excited to attend the BIPOC Archivists Forum, and the Stream A sessions on Wednesday (The Home in Transition, Under Construction, and the workshop on Incorporating Indigenous Ways in Archival Policy and Procedure Development). I also can't wait to attend the virtual meetup on Tuesday, since I'm so new to the field — really looking forward to meeting other archivists.

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