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ACA 2021 Conference: An Interview with Michelle Phan

1 Jun 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

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 Michelle Phan, recent graduate at the University of Toronto iSchool. 


Can you tell us your school and program of study? 

I am a recent graduate from the Master of Information program at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, where I specialized in dual streams of Critical Information Policy Studies and Archives and Records Management. 

What is your presentation about? 

My presentation, titled ‘Towards the Rebel Archive: Seeing Prison Abolition through embodiment, ‘value’, and process is based on approaching social justice based archival literature from the perspective of prison and police abolition. In my research, I seek to disseminate the impacts of prison abolition as praxis in the archives and observe the participatory model from the abolitionist perspective.  

My presentation will be an amalgamation of a series of research projects conducted based on sex worker advocacy networks such as Butterfly Network here in Toronto, as well as an annotation project conducted by Nigel Poor and the incarcerated men of San Quentin State Prison in California. 

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

I was hesitant to return to academia and archival studies for a long time because of the very visible gaps between theory and practice, particularly in the use of the term ‘decolonization’. Meanwhile, I began to engage more in critical race theory, particularly the works of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Angela Davis, Katherine McKittrick, and Kelly Lytle Hernandez. Hernandez highlights the rebel archive in her work and this concept is what drew me to the broader frameworks of archival theory.  

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? 

Archives should be ultimately interested in Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty. Reciprocal and relational praxis is imperative to the way communities want to be represented.  

I continue to think to Jenn Cole’s words on relinquishing knowledge by “knowing that sometimes waiting is the work” (2019, p. 71) in changing what is valued in archival practice. I hope that a shift towards practice as process/progress encourages archivists to take time to think through decision making processes.   

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

I’m looking forward to so many panels! Black Archives Matter, At Home in the Community Archives: How the ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives Has Evolved in Collaboration with Their Volunteers, Towards Acknowledging Emotions in Archival Education, and Dionne Brand reads from The Blue Clerk.  


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