Roundtable on the Archive: A Group Discussion from the Fourth Critical Genealogies Workshop (Richmond, VA, 2022)

Author: Colin Koopman (University of Oregon)

  • Roundtable on the Archive: A Group Discussion from the Fourth Critical Genealogies Workshop (Richmond, VA, 2022)


    Roundtable on the Archive: A Group Discussion from the Fourth Critical Genealogies Workshop (Richmond, VA, 2022)



This article is based on a transcription of a roundtable conversation on archival work and the concept of the archive held at the Fourth Meeting of the Critical Genealogies Workshop in Richmond, Virginia, on October 21, 2022. The roundtable panelists were Ladelle McWhorter, Kevin Olson, Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson, Perry Zurn, and William A.B. Parkhurst, all in conversation with the roundtable's moderator, Colin Koopman. Full participant biographies are appended at the end of the article.

Keywords: methodology, Nietzsche, Foucault, Saidiya Hartman, genealogy, archive

How to Cite: Koopman, Colin. "Roundtable on the Archive: A Group Discussion from the Fourth Critical Genealogies Workshop (Richmond, VA, 2022)." Genealogy+Critique 9, no. 1 (2023): 1–29. DOI:



Published on
24 Apr 2023
Peer Reviewed
Koopman: The focus of this roundtable conversation is the archive: what we understand the archive or archives to be, how we work in them, what we can do in them, and what we cannot do in them but need to do otherwise. All of our panelists have been digging around in numerous archives for quite some time. To begin with a first question or prompt, I'm hoping each of you can just give us a feel for one project that you might take to be salient for some of our broader questions later on about what the archive even is, which is a bigger set of questions that we'll get to in a bit. So what have you done in this place called the archive that we have yet to define?

I've been working in the Haitian colonial and postcolonial archives for twelve years or so. They're scattered all over the place, but ironically the principal sites are largely in France and the US, and there are interesting reasons for that. Primarily I've been working in the French National Archives and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the French colonial archives in Aix-en-Provence, which also interestingly are as far from Paris as you can get without leaving continental France. In the US, the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University has an amazing collection of French colonial materials. The Newberry Library in Chicago also has some important things, as do the US National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland and the American Antiquarian Society in Massachusetts. These are the primary sources I've been working with, and there are lots of subsidiary ones as well.

I've done a number of projects from this material, but most recently I've been working on something that's a bit unusual, because it's an attempt to write a genealogy with no object. Specifically I've been working on what I call subaltern silence. It's the question of who gets excluded, left out, ignored, or delegitimized, and thereby subordinated. In other words, it's a genealogy of silences that are manifested specifically by what is not present in the archive—what could not, by definition, be present because it is silent. I try to identify specific forms of silence at specific times, then observe those moments of silence over time, tracing their alterations in form and type over the centuries. The overall arc of the genealogy is from coloniality through postcoloniality, starting from the violent impositions of silence by slave law and other practices of enslavement in the 17th and 18th centuries, then observing how all of that is transformed in postcoloniality in the 19th century.


Most of my research is done within archives in the concrete sense of working with archival material objects. I thought I would start with an overview of previous projects. I've previously done three archival fellowships. The first was at Linda Hall Library's History of Science Archive. During that fellowship, I researched the development and critique of the principle of identity in the history of philosophy of science and connected that to Nietzsche's critique. I also did an archival fellowship with the Leo Baeck Institute at the Center for Jewish History, where I was researching claims that Nietzsche plagiarized The Birth of Tragedy from Jacob Bernays. Nietzsche does not deny the claim but rather responds in a letter in 1872 saying, "Shrewd people are getting wind of something."

My last fellowship was at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Philosophy of Science working in the Archives of Scientific Philosophy. Specifically, I was researching the genesis and development of Wilfrid Sellars's "Fatalism and Determinism." Basically, this type of work offers the backbone for genetic interpretation or genetic analysis (this is sometimes referred to as genetic criticism outside philosophy). What is first required for genetic interpretations is to organize the documents on a developmental (though not always linear) timeline. My work with Sellars and other philosophers offers a genesis of a work pulling from physical and material archival evidence. This includes evidence from their personal library, library loans, reading notes, drafts, print manuscripts, correction copies, final author copies, first editions as well as later revisions, erasures, and additions. From those changes, you find a text that is very much in motion and you get an idea of the trajectory of an author's thought. It can also give you information that confirms certain interpretations while undermining others. This information is important because it corroborates some claims or simply fails to falsify others.

Beyond those archival fellowships, I've focused on indexes of archival materials, particularly to help philosophers. For example, I published an index on Schopenhauer's sources on mathematics that covered not just his personal library and library loans but also his reading based on school curriculum and syllabi. I also noted the limitations of relying exclusively on such material traces such as library circulation records. They can testify to a history but they are also silent. For example, there are records that Schopenhauer borrowed books from friends who borrowed them from libraries, so we know the record is incomplete.

I have also done considerable work on Nietzsche. Some of my earliest work on Nietzsche was on Nietzsche's annotations in odd sections of his personal library that scholars ignored. For example, I looked into Nietzsche's annotations in antiquarian booksellers' catalogs. In the archive we still have the catalogs he was ordering books out of and annotating. These annotations can tell us things about which authors he was interested in as well as offer further information about his reading habits. More recently, I have completed an index of archival documents stored at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek and the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv testifying to the genesis of Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human and The Genealogy of Morals.

So more broadly, one of the things that I am concerned about is how to handle archival evidence. If we are not going to just limit ourselves to the published texts, how should we deal with evidence in archives, personal letters, or personal libraries? One of the things I'm working on is an index I'm creating of Foucault's personal library and some of his annotations in those works. And there is an interesting twist in this particular collection because his personal library also contains presentation inscriptions. That is, many people would send Foucault their works and write commentaries and notes in those presentation copies. These give us some interesting information, not just about which books Foucault had access to, but also what the authors thought about their own work.

So, in general, I work with the actual physical documents in brick-and-mortar buildings, or scans of documents in digital archive. I try to think about how these traces of the past can illuminate the philosophies and philosophers of the past and yet simultaneously silence marginalized thinkers.


I don't have a good answer. When I do my work, I feel I'm working in a fog chasing vapor trails. The current book is so sprawling across periods of time that I've really been out of my depth at some points. So I haven't gone to any particular library or repository. I use a lot of digital sources and mostly chase things down through other sources. So it really is more like chasing an archive in motion than it is looking at what is in a place.

What I'm currently working on is the sections of chapter four on the 19th century and Josiah Warren. There is a small archive that I hope to get to where some of his papers are kept in the town that grew out of the third colony that he founded, the one on Long Island. But for the most part, I just happen upon things. I ask people, people send me things. It's pretty haphazard. I am a real contrast with Will.

Parkhurst: It is all haphazard.
McWhorter: Not when you do it [to Parkhurst].

I've been trying to come up with something to say. I find it hard. It is a difficult question because I think part of the work is actually constructing the archive that one wants to use. But in terms of the space where you go that has dusty boxes and stuff in it that you find, I've done a bit of work at the French military archives in Paris at the Chateau de Vincennes, which is an incredibly beautiful place with a glorious reading room and very cranky archivists whose job seems to be to make the researcher's life as difficult as possible. The reason why I went there is because there's a lot of material there on military operations from the 17th to the 20th century, including in Algeria. The archive spans the entire duration of French colonization of Algeria. This was a relevant archive for me because I was interested in the time period from 1830 to 1842 and all the way up to Algerian independence.

Some of the materials were harder, sometimes impossible to access than other things. I'm also interested in the space of this archive. It's jarring because it's a castle, quite beautiful but also ostentatious in all kinds of ways. And then you open these boxes and some things you find in them are pretty awful. So the experience is jarring in a way that's helpful because it creates some artificial distance between the researcher and the material. There's more to say, but I'll leave it there.


I've worked in different archives for different reasons. The Jacques Derrida archives at IMEC and UC Irvine to help prepare and analyze Derrida's unpublished seminars. The archives of Le Groupe d'information sur les prisons (1970–1973), from which I co-edited and co-translated an authoritative English language collection. That was interesting insofar as I tried to address and even rectify the oversights of the archive itself in the very replication of that archive.

Lately, I've been writing a book I'm calling How We Make Each Other: Trans Poetics at the Edge of the University. In it, I take the Five Colleges in Massachusetts (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Umass Amherst) as a case study. To trace trans life there (and I focus specifically on the period between 1990 and 2020), I needed to consult the archival holdings of each of the colleges, as well as the local Sexual Minorities Archives (SMA), one of the largest and longest-standing LGBTQ archives in the US. While the SMA has significant and explicit trans archival holdings, the colleges do not. I had to sift through records of LGBTQ student orgs, faculty activism, and gender studies programs to track a haphazard story. That is, I've had to build the archive as I go.

And that building was more extensive than I had anticipated. Because of the silences of the archives, I initiated a series of interviews with trans students, staff, faculty, alumns, and allies. Ultimately, I conducted 74 interviews and then I relied on another existing 27. These form the second major source for my analysis. Interestingly, if you call the interviews oral histories, then they become an archive. But if you call them qualitative interviews, they're just data, which I think is hilarious.

In the process, I also developed real friendships. And those friendships led to still more archival materials. Boxed records, old zines, forwarded email chains, defunct Tumblr accounts, etc. This is all to say that when you are analyzing the archive of a drastically under-archived subject—like queer and trans life—you have to look in more places and be beholden to more people. It goes well beyond official "archives."

Koopman: Thank you all. Next I'd be curious to hear from any of you who have thoughts on how you think about the concept of the archive as a site for genealogical research? Do you think about archives primarily as institutionally structured repositories, organized collections, fields of reading in motion, a structure of what is sayable? We have already heard some answers to this. And so maybe one way to put a point on my question is to ask the following: can you offer us a concept or conceptualization of the archive that you find useful for doing some of the archival work that you've done? So I'm not asking what's the best possible way to think about the archive, but what is a useful way in which you have self reflectively thought about the archive?

I was on a round table at the American Political Science Association recently where I tried to think through what I think an archive is. I started by thinking about what I do myself when I engage in archival work. And I came to the realization that I do two very different things, which are basically the opposite of each other and totally incompatible. So, insofar as I sometimes write about Foucault, in the mode of what we might describe as history of philosophy, I do something very different from what Foucault practiced. Here, my archive is a set of texts that I consult in order to try and reconstruct what the author really thought. The archive is the place of truth that will reveal to me what Foucault really meant by what he wrote.

But when I do genealogical work, the archive is something totally different—and I don't actually know what exactly it is. It's not just a place where I go to find the dusty boxes that have artifacts in them that I can then describe. So, the archive is not an instrument to figure out what really happened, but it's a sort of medium in the sense that the archive mediates what's visible and what's concealed in a number of different ways.

And so, in my genealogical work, there is an archive in the sense of the repository of documents to which I go, but it's also that which I'm trying to describe in engaging with those documents—the rules of formation, as Foucault sometimes calls it. And I think that constructing an archive also then has this double sense: you have to identify which repositories are interesting, relevant, and helpful, but you also have to construct an archive in the sense that you are identifying or reconstructing the rules of formation that make certain discursive and other practices possible.


I also use institutionally structured repositories, but the practice itself is much more fluid and broad. I've found that particularly when I'm working with colonial and postcolonial sources that I can't do the kind of thing Foucault does. If you look carefully at his bibliographies, they're fairly short and largely sourced from the Bibliothèque Nationale. They're primarily books that are pretty obscure, but they're books, they were published. And in that sense, they have a firmly established institutional status. Because I'm trying to do something more complicated and marginal and liminal, the archive becomes much more complex and fluid as well.

Of course, I do work on some texts similar to Foucault's. This includes some classic texts of European enlightenment that constitute a kind of knowledge/power about the colonial order: Moreau de Saint-Méry's Description topographique, for instance, or Raynal's Histoire des deux Indes. However, there's also a huge pile of other things that I'm interested in: pamphlets, broadsheets, manifestos, legal texts, interrogation transcripts, newspapers, magazines, journals, caricatures, engravings, maps, photographs, and other visual sources. I find a lot of interesting genealogical content in these less official, less obviously noteworthy materials, including ones that are purely visual. I also work from many manuscript sources—letters, speeches, and memoirs, things that were never published, they were just put in boxes and they come up from storage in bundles with ribbons tied around them. All of this is a very fluid and complex starting point for a project that is really interested in what was not in the archive in the first place, regardless of what you consider the archive to be. So I'm constantly wrapped up in this puzzle of trying to figure out what is not there, which is a complicated interpretive process that maybe I'll talk about later. It tries to go beyond what would be available in any archive, by means of interpreting what is there and thinking carefully about what is excluded.


A lot of my work is actually with hardcopy documents in stone and brick buildings. More and more these days it is also through digital copies. This digital migration is great in some situations, not in others. But when I think about what an archive is, in the Foucauldian sense, it comes out of my own sort of ground level nitty gritty work. The more you go from one archival institution to another, from one database to another, the more you realize how archival organization is simply radically inconsistent. You're dealing with incongruous and non-homogenous materials; you're dealing with categories that are not universal, categories that are sometimes chosen almost arbitrarily.

And the actual organization of documents, the arrangement of evidence sometimes seems completely historically contingent. It is difficult to understand why they decided to organize it this way. It is not clear why they decided to, for example, throw away envelopes or why they decided to organize letters by date received rather than date sent. It's a whole list of organizational practices that change not only historically, but even within the same time period across institutions. Different institutions organize archival materials differently. And a lot of that is based on the sort of power dynamics that Foucault would talk about.

What we find to be 'important,' and maybe this goes to Perry Zurn's point, is not universal. What we're seeing more and more in what's called editorial sciences (Editionswissenschaft) is that pretty much everything we thought we knew about how we should organize things historically speaking has been wrong. We couldn't anticipate what would be important. For example, the documents that make up Nietzsche's archival legacy were originally organized by his sister, archivists, and editors at the original Nietzsche Archive. There's some stuff that just blows your mind when you realize that the archivists were writing their own commentaries in Nietzsche's notebooks. And sometimes I will find letters, notes, translations, and transcriptions from people working at the archive. They were simply writing a letter to somebody or a note to themselves and forgot it in a box. And the archive doesn't realize this wasn't the philosopher's letter or note. And so, it ends up being catalogued.

Also, there's all this weird contingency that you have to piece together like a historical detective. For example, there is one book in Nietzsche's personal library and it doesn't make any sense for it to be there. And when you dig into the history, it turns out someone at the archive stole one of Nietzsche's books in his personal library and put back another one, and now the replacement is part of Nietzsche's official library. So, there's all this radical contingency in the physical material archive.

There is also a considerable amount of archival evidence that has been lost because of standard archival practice. In the 18th and 19th century, a standard practice in archival restorations when binding books was cutting out marginalia. Under Nietzsche's sisters' direction, perhaps a third of the books in Nietzsche's personal library were bound or rebound, many of which contained his marginalia. Much of Nietzsche's annotations and marginalia were partially or completely removed and discarded. These decisions, as is pointed out by Roger Stoddard in Marks in Books, often come down to non-scholarly considerations of book binders such as cost, beauty, and uniformity.

From the perspective of a kind of genius discourse, these constitute 'distortions' of addition or erasure. Foucault, of course, critiques the role an author plays in uniting a group of texts. We could ask with him, why should the archivists and clerks be excluded from the author function? Seen differently, these 'distortions' are themselves primary evidence in the history of the Nietzsche Archive (see David M. Hoffman, Zur Geschichte des Nietzsche-Archivs) that constitutes 'Nietzsche' and also that, in broader archival practice, constitutes 'authors.' While we see this as bad archival practice today, it demonstrates how standard archival practice has changed. These traces are primary evidence of importance of understanding those changes. Specifically, it demonstrates how the work and decisions of unknown clerks and archivists are pulled into, and help co-determine, the power-constituted trajectory of the archive in the Foucauldian sense. What Foucault says about the archive philosophically, helps us make sense of broader changes, such as changes about what we think is important to save and what is excluded or deaccessioned. With these in view, we see that much more when it comes to the history of archives.

To Perry Zurn's point, a colleague of mine once mentioned that historically one of the worst things that can happen to the documents of minorities in philosophy is for them to be given to an archive. They may eventually either just be forgotten and become degraded. Or perhaps even worse they might undergo deaccession, a process where something is taken out of the archive or it's literally destroyed because it's not considered important. So, a lot of these minority histories and documents we only have because they were actually saved from the archive. Because they were forgotten in an attic, used to store plates and cutlery or even retrieved after being used as insulation in a wall. A lot of my thought on Foucault and his sense of archive comes out of the very concrete, aggravating, and tedious problems that I run into doing research.


I'm much more likely to treat the archive as something constructed and contingent. I really do think of it more in terms of threads, things that lead to other things. Something will be referred to in something I'm reading and then I go find it. And it's probably not in the same place that the first thing was. And so the archive, in the singular, is really a long trail of documents that lead to other documents that sometimes lead to things that are not documents.

When Foucault talks about the insurrection of subjugated knowledges, he makes a distinction between what people remember experiencing and things that are in the archive, which I take to mean in that case something that has been published and forgotten, lodged somewhere in some library or some box in an attic. He says he puts those two things together to produce counter-memorial genealogical work. The contemporary or experiential aspect of subjugated knowledges is what can sometimes be retrieved if I prompt people with some of the questions arising for me out of some of those old documents. It's very situational. I don't have a general definition. I construct whatever archive I construct in the moment of trying to figure out answers to something that seems problematic.


I love this question so much. What is the archive in this particular context or for this particular project? This is sticky for me. I keep trying to identify the archive of trans life that I can actually draw out of official college archives. More specifically, I want to understand traces of trans life that are precisely not consumable by university logics or policy briefs. So, what in the archive shows me a kind of trans life that can't live in the archive, that can't live in the university, that doesn't in fact live there, but becomes vibrant in a different context and therefore structurally undoes the very setting in which I find it?

That's sticky. And how do I interpret efforts in the archive either to write the story or to leave the story unwritten? In one instance, for example, I was handed something called a Magic File. Literally it said "Trans—Magic File" on the folder tab. It was constructed by an archivist who, noting that people kept asking about trans history, started a makeshift pile of records. It wasn't officially in the archive, but it supplemented the archive. And it was a magic file, I was told, because it's like the Magic Eight toy: if you are looking for answer, here's an answer—which is a strange way to narrate the trans story.

Half the material I worked through was not processed yet, even if the archivists had had it for years. It was not important enough to be processed. And those are just hot mess boxes, and determining what is happening in them is difficult. At Umass for example, there are roughly twenty unprocessed boxes in addition to the other twenty processed boxes in the Stonewall collection. I remember speaking to the LGBT program director and they said, "I just cleaned out my office one day and gave it to the archive." I laughed and said, "That's exactly what it looked like—like you dumped the office in there." That archives are hot messes when it comes to trans life is not something that tells you what an archive is, but it might tell you what an archive isn't. It isn't organized.

Erlenbusch: Thinking of an archive as a hot mess is really, really good.

Next I want to ask you all about any on-the-ground or work-a-day strategies you use for working through and getting something out of your archival sites. What does it look like to go into a space, some space institutional or perhaps a computer, and do archival research?

Or, here is a different way to put this question, if you all will indulge me. What are your data collection and processing methods as genealogists? I know this way of putting it can sound strange, but perhaps it is only because our culture (or is it our archive?) wants us to believe that what we in the humanities do is necessarily messier and more judgment-driven than the kinds of projects in the sciences that tend to freely talk of themselves in terms of "data collection" and "data processing." But I think that is at best a conceit, because the practice of even the hardest science is filled with all kinds of questions, and hence choices and judgments, concerning what can even count as data, how to store and catalog (or database) those data, and move those data from one site to another (for instance from an off-site archive to an accessible research site like your office or desk or laptop).

Whether you indulge my way of putting it or not, again, what I am hoping to get a sense of from you all is what it looks like for you to be in the archive. Do you come in with a notebook and take as many notes as you can? Do you come in with a camera and collect as many images as you can only to do the reading later? Do you read digitized material or hardcopies? When confronted with sizable archives, how do you manage the challenge? Latour wrote, in The Pasteurization of France, that his research had involved reading every issue of the Revue Scientifique from 1870 to 1919. How would one make such a task manageable?


I'll just extend what Perry Zurn said about hot mess. I find the colonial and postcolonial archives are often quite a hot mess. I've come to rely a lot on archivists and the expertise of library professionals—sometimes surly, sometimes quite welcoming, but typically very knowledgeable. Also, an archival inventory is a great friend if they've actually gone through their collections and created one. It's by no means something you can trust entirely, but it gives you a rough cut of what's in which box, so you know what to request from storage.

I've actually had some fortuitous accidents by misunderstanding what the inventory was saying and getting a box that didn't have what I thought it had in it, but it turned out to have something very interesting. Sometimes there's stuff that's not even cataloged, that you just stumble upon. I've actually generated a whole article out of things that I didn't even know I was interested in until I kept noticing them among the things I was actually looking for.

I've also had some amazing generosity from archivists. For instance, I was really frustrated once with a collection in the French colonial archives that was clearly going to be very useful to my work. It's a really important collection, but as far as I could tell there was no catalog or inventory for it. In the French archives, they always have what they call le Président, the person in charge of the reading room who sits at the front on a raised chair and observes everyone, makes judgment calls about who gets access to various things, and so on.

But le Président is usually an archivist. So I went up to Madame la Présidente one day and said, "There isn't an inventory for series CC9, is there?" And she said, "No, you're correct." And by the way, these are documents that are 200-some years old, so they've had plenty of time to work on it. She said, "No, but I'm making one and it's in a spreadsheet. If you tell me what keywords you want me to search for, I can generate a printout for you." And so, the next day when I came in, she had, and that turned out to be enormously helpful. It took me a couple weeks to track down all the stuff she had generated, and it became the basis for several chapters of a book by the time I was done. So for me at least, that kind of personal generosity has been incredibly valuable.

I've also done what Colin Koopman described about Bruno Latour many times. I read a decade of the New York Francophone newspaper Le Courrier des États-Unis at the American Antiquarian Society. By the way, that was suggested to me by their newspaper archivist; I didn't even know about it. I talked with him for a while and he said, "Oh, if that's your project, you should look at this." But it involved reading a decade of this newspaper, sitting there in the chair and leaving with a splitting headache every day. It was super interesting though. I learned all kinds of things that I didn't know before—for instance, the drum-beating of fake excuses up to the US invasion of Mexico in the 1840s. Who knew that there was a French-language newspaper in New York that was reporting on that as well as the things that I was actually researching?

Similarly, I recently had to read through many years of a French caricature journal, which was actually quite fun. I now have a huge library of images that were not at all germane to the research, but which I found amusing in one way or another. For instance, if you've ever read the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, I have a lot of drawings of him transformed into some kind of caricatured chimpanzee.

One of the best things I ever did was ask the Bibliothèque Nationale—sorry, pay the Bibliothèque Nationale, just to be concrete, $850—to digitize the full run of a Haitian revolutionary newspaper for me. This was kind of a COVID work-around. I couldn't go to the archives because they were closed, but the personnel were still in the building and they could scan the documents for me. It's so nice being able just to sit at home and read these beautiful, high resolution scans without having to stoop over a table in the reading room.


From my experience, the practice of archival work happens in many different ways. Every person who works in physical brick-and-mortar archives does things differently. One of the approaches that has been helpful for me is going into archives with an actual research question. For example, one of the research questions that I had was about the first edition of Nietzsche's Human All Too Human. In every single first edition there was this little square of paper with half a word printed on it and it's pasted into the book and you're just like, "what is going on there?" And so that question led me to trace the genesis of the work and find out what happened. It turned out there were actually three or four different mistakes that ended up getting made by different people in really complex ways. And the best answer anybody could come up with for correcting it was, 'let's print out a thousand little teeny rectangles and paste it into each individual copy by hand.'

Examples like that lead to interesting questions about whether that bit of paper is published. Is it not published? What are we supposed to think about that? It is certainly authorized. What about the word underneath that bit of paper? It was printed and delivered to the public but was never intended to be read. Is it published? However, it is fairly rare that you have such a specific question when you begin research.

A second type of archival practice would be building something that I wanted somebody else to do. Sometimes when I am researching in an archive, I get frustrated and I ask myself, "why hasn't someone created an index of this? This would be really useful to my research." And then I think, "Oh, I guess I should do that." Perhaps other people will find that helpful too. And that's kind of how the index of Foucault's library started. So, I orient some projects based on what I, and hopefully others, would find useful.

A final approach, going into on-the-ground problems, is to pay attention where things don't line up in a collection, to search for the discontinuities. For example, consider one of the more interesting objects in Foucault's library, a copy of the French translation of Husserl's The Origin of Geometry. The library cataloged it as containing a presentation inscription by Husserl to Foucault—and you're like, "Wow! That would be really cool! Awesome!" And then you start thinking about the timeline and realize that doesn't make much sense. Foucault would've been maybe thirteen years old. And then you think about it a little more and the book itself is published in like 1961 and that doesn't make any sense at all, what is happening?

So just today, I actually showed Perry Zurn right before we started, it turns out that the presentation inscription is actually Derrida's! Derrida wrote the introduction to that edition, then hand wrote a note to Foucault on one of the cover pages, and sent it to him. So, we now have a Derrida text, a small bit of text but nonetheless a Derrida text, we had no idea existed before! And we found it because of these sort of cataloging incongruities. When things in archives and databases don't match up my first intuition is I don't understand what's happening. I just don't understand the context in which these fit together. But the more time you spend in archives the more you see the discontinuities and fault lines where things don't line up. So, my final approach is to unrelentingly question what I don't understand and oftentimes there are interesting research opportunities hiding there.


Working in the Five Colleges archives, I use my phone a lot. I take pictures of relevant documents, then sort and analyze them on my computer at home. Similarly, I record the interviews on my phone, then transcribe and analyze them at home. So I do data collection on my phone and data processing on my computer—and hopefully also in my heart. One college archive has been closed for three years due to COVID, but the archivist thankfully shared with me a backdoor to the digital collection they are building.

When I am in the archive snapping pictures, I think about José Esteban Muñoz's essay, "Ephemera as Evidence." He talks about queerness as "a mode of sociality and relationality […] transmitted covertly," "evaporating at the touch of those who would eliminate queer possibility." I think of transness this way too, as a mode of sociality and relationality that is often transmitted covertly and whose traces will often constitutively evaporate at the touch of those who would eliminate their possibility. When I go into the archive, and when I think about what data I'm collecting, it's not simply a question of what photos to snap. I think about what can live as a trace because I see it and because I will care for it. And I pause when I integrate it into the project, to keep myself accountable, so that its transness won't wither away in my hands.

Now that's not unique necessarily to trans archival work. I think all of us when we select particular things from the archival record are making them live in a way they didn't live before and giving them sense because they now belong to a different story. But I like to think that it's worth staying with Muñoz here when it comes to queerness and transness. The goal is to let something live that would otherwise evaporate in the hands or under the eyes—or the phone—of another. And to grapple with how to touch the material differently so it can keep touching us.

Koopman: We have a question from someone in the audience now.
Audience: Have any of you had to reshape your research question based on availability in the archives?
Erlenbusch: I try not to go in with a research question, so no. Sure, there's a way in which I think about something before going into an archive. But the archive usually destroys everything I'm thinking. So I try to go in as "empty" as possible and see what comes out of it. But I've had to change the archives that I wanted to use. When COVID hit, everything was shut down. And so I tried to get a sense of what's available digitally and then work with that material. This means that a lot of the more messy, sometimes uncatalogued boxes that are only available physically in various places, I just haven't had a chance to look at.
Parkhurst: Yes, I would also agree. During my Ph.D. I tried to go into archives with presuppositions and projects. For example, "I think Nietzsche is doing this, let's find some evidence for it." That is a horrible strategy. Ninety percent of the time everything that you bring theoretically into the archive will just be spit right back in your face. So, the strategy that I started taking during the end of my Ph.D. was, look at the archival evidence first, and then figure out which parts are weird and really unsettling. I then try to think if I can build some sort of theory around that. I guess that's maybe relying on intuition a bit more than I am comfortable with, but the idea of finding the unexpected in the archive I think can be very helpful. One of the things I'll discuss in my talk tomorrow is working with Foucault's reading notes. It turns out during The Order of Things he was reading Kant on race. And my first reaction is "What is going on there?" I didn't expect that. So, oftentimes I think it is best to follow my intuition of surprise. When I come to the archive with presuppositions, I'm usually wrong.
Erlenbusch: Can I follow up here, because I think it's really interesting how you talked about what you find in the archive. Sometimes I feel like I'm not finding things, but things find me. There are things that stick out in strange ways and you don't know what to do with them, but they have this insistence and you keep thinking about them. And sometimes that's a really slow process. So when I was working in the military archives in Paris, I took so many pictures. But then it hit me months after I left the archives, when I was looking through those pictures, that I didn't have pictures of some things, because those things just weren't in the archive. So when things start settling down, you start realizing what the evidence is hiding.
Koopman: We have another question in the room.

I guess it is a question for everybody, but it is inspired by something that Perry Zurn and Ladelle McWhorter said. So forgive me if I misheard, but Perry, you said that if it's an oral history then it's a part of an archive, but if it's an interview, it's data. And then Del, you mentioned at one point that oral histories kind of don't make it into archives. I can't remember exactly what it was, but I noticed two instances where oral histories were brought up.

So I guess my question is, generally what kinds of things are in archives and how much has that been changing? I've noticed right now we have visuals that, Kevin Olson, you said you work with. Because it does seem like some people won't count certain objects or certain types of documentation to be a part of an archive. So I was just curious about all of your opinions on what counts as things that document. Because it can't be an actual physical document, or oral history, photograph, film, whatever. What do you all feel like usually fits within the archives?


My comment was about Foucault making a distinction between archive and memory. The stories people tell themselves and each other are usually not in archives. But I'm not sure that I care very much about that distinction. And I'm not sure Foucault cared very much about it either. I'm realizing in listening to my colleagues here that I work often, as Will Parkhurst said, in response to surprise. The surprises that I experience often have to do with word usage, more than with descriptions of events in documents or something that.

My current project was spurred to a great extent by the strange phrase that occurs in Digger texts by Gerrard Winstanley and others: God is no respecter of persons. I found that phrase so jarring when I was working on the 2009 book. So I have since tried to collect 17th century statements, from whatever source I could, that used respecter of persons or respect for persons in that strange way. I read the entire King James Bible last year, and noted every time it came up in any sort of configuration.

Something similar has happened in previous projects. I don't know the right words to use for this. It's like lateral matching of ways of speaking in a given time. And then I try to figure out what it is that's generating that unfamiliar way of using those words, and what has happened since that time that has made the phrase or word usage almost unintelligible to me. I guess that's one of the reasons that my archives, insofar as I use them, have them, are constructed; they're constructed out of things that are really not connected to each other where I find them initially but seem to have been current at a particular time and place. Why were people saying something that makes so little sense to me, and how did it then lose the sense it once had?


I've been very interested in visual materials and in many print and manuscript sources that are not typically read. Also, I've lately found myself focusing more and more on practices. The problem is that practices aren't literally archived. So how do you access something that was done in the past, and what kind of archive would give you access to it? The visual is one of those resources. I'm also open to using objects and spaces in a similar way. Next spring I'm going to the Musée Carnavalet in Paris, which has been closed for renovation. They have things—actual objects—and I'm interested in how the material practices of coloniality are evidenced by those things. I think examining these objects will be very different from interpreting a printed text: what was this, what was it for, how did you use it, and what does it indicate about the regime of practice around it?

I've also found spaces and geographies very useful. For instance, plantation owners in the French colonies tended to keep maps. I think it was partly for tax purposes, and likely for management and surveillance. In any case, it shows us the physical layout of the plantation as an early-modern work space that regulated practices. That can be cross-indexed against engravings in other publications, like Diderot's Encyclopédie, that show us how work was done there.

Then there were the paramilitaries in the colonies, the maréchaussée, who were used for hunting down fugitive slaves. There's a whole geography connected with them, because they were sent off to find maroon communities in the hinterlands of the colonies. These communities were sometimes only suspected, and sometimes known but in an unknown location. As a result, the maréchaussée had a keen interest in geography. All of these maps and charts become sources for thinking about spatiality in the colonies—spatialities of subordination—and I think there's a lot of potential there that I haven't yet tapped.


So, regarding your question, something that's been interesting to think about is what do archives actually contain? I haven't written anything on this yet, but I find the idea of the bio-archive fascinating. The bio-archive simply refers to the fact that we archive ridiculous amounts of biological data accidentally. A couple of years ago an archeologist was trying to figure out some DNA and skin patterns of domesticated animals a thousand years ago. And rather than going and excavating them, he realized we have books that are actually made of skin and not just one or two, but hundreds of them all over the world. So, he was able to do an anthropological genetic investigation through archival materials.

There are a lot of biological materials and traces in archives that relate to philosophy. One example can be found in one of the Nietzsche collections. There's an envelope with Nietzsche's hair in it, which is kind of weird. On the front of the envelope is written something like, "all I have left in my life." This was probably saved by Nietzsche's sister. There's lots of really weird stuff that you'll find in the bio-archive. Another thing I've been thinking about in the bio-archive is fingerprints. In many archival documents you'll run into places, at least if they're using ink, where they get a smudge on their finger, and leave a fingerprint. And sometimes there's reasonable evidence to think that you can attribute that fingerprint to one person or another. By using that bio data from one page you can then talk about their use of other documents if they also have that fingerprint.

One of the interesting things I've been thinking about is the notion of a bio-archive. There's lots of biological data in archives that we don't think about as philosophers. In part this is because we think the only important things are texts. An archivist once delightfully made fun of me when I asked for all the evidence related to this text and please include evidence that's not textual. They smiled at me and chided me a little bit saying "you realize that almost all evidence is non-textual, right?" Leave it to a philosopher to think he is clever for thinking not all evidence is textual.

Audience: The Poe Museum down the street here has a lock of Poe's hair in their archive and analysis was performed to establish two things. First, he was not malnourished, and second, he had higher, extremely high levels of arsenic, mercury, and other metals in his body. But that was supposedly in the water supply. This is a practical example of the bio-archive.

Thank you so much for that remarkable object. And now, in light of the time I want to move on to a question that some of you've already brought up that I think is certainly important for us to address, perhaps explicitly. And there actually is kind of a series of theoretical questions at stake in what I want to ask about. But one question in particular sort of stands out for me as a starting point. It is an issue that you have all already raised or some of you have raised, about gaps and silences.

I want to ask what thoughts you all have on how to deal with archival gaps and silences. And I suppose there are sort of two kinds of gaps and silences and one kind is easier to deal with than the other. One kind would be a silence for which we have pretty decent evidence that we can fill it in. But I think the more challenging kind of issue would be when you are staring into a hole in an archive, and you know something was there, something had to be there, but it is really impossible historically or empirically, to say what it is. So how do you deal with that? Do you stick to a rigorous empiricism and find a way to mark the silence? Do you theorize? Do you critically fabulate in the vein of Saidiya Hartman and a broader tradition of writers of which her book Wayward Lives: Beautiful Experiments is a part? Or what else do you do? What have you thought about doing but haven't done but wish you had done? Or what have you thought about doing but haven't done and you're glad you didn't do it? Pick one of those questions. There's a lot there I know.

Erlenbusch: Can I add a couple of questions?
Koopman: Please. Of course.
Erlenbusch: I'm wondering how you know if there's a hole in the first place and how you know that it's not a "me" issue. Say a particular piece of text is written in a vernacular that I just don't understand but might be perfectly clear to somebody who has access to that vernacular because of their social position, for example. As a consequence, I think that all of us are doing critical fabulation to some extent when we're working in archives. I don't think there is a way of not doing it. In some sense, all of this is fiction writing and I don't see how it could not be at all.

I would underscore those points very briefly. One of the biggest silences I've come across is structural. Around 2005, LGBTQ organizations, programs, and departments started keeping digital rather than paper records. So the paper trail dries up. But the digital record does not become immediately accessible—and much of it, especially before the introduction of the cloud and mass web-archiving, has been lost. Not all the silences are structural in this sense, though. I have to keep asking myself, "What isn't here in the archive because I can't hear it, because I don't notice it, because it doesn't speak to me or strike my fancy?" In archival work, a lot of what drives you is what you listen for and what resonances then seem to appear out of nowhere. But that also means there are limits to your attunements that keep you from noticing (or being noticed by) certain things in the archive. You create silences as much as you clock them.

As for critical fabulation, in retelling the stories I find, I do try to overtly bring them back to life, which means telling them like a storyteller tells stories. That in turn means that, because I'm the storyteller, there's more of me in them than was there to begin with. And I do that purposefully, recognizing there are some real payoffs to that. And there's a rightness to it given the multiple sorts of ways in which I belong to the community I'm writing about. But there are also some violences I could be—no doubt am—doing, and I try to attune myself to those too, not to deny them but to be honest about them.


I'll pick up the theme of silence because that's actually my whole research project right now. The work I was describing earlier is about what I call subaltern silence. It's inspired by Gayatri Spivak's essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" I've tried to flip that question around, so it's not about whether the subaltern can speak, but rather, when is the subaltern silent? There's a profound paradox at the heart of that question, because what I'm ultimately interested in are cases in which people have been so thoroughly marginalized and excluded that they don't appear in the archive. They did not appear in their time, and therefore they have not left any traces for us. There's literally a kind of impossibility theorem at the heart of this thing: we can't know about things that are completely silent and absent from the archive.

The question then is how you can work around the edges and what kind of tactics can you use to say, "Okay, there may in fact be some things we will never know about because they were literally silenced, but in other cases we might be able to triangulate and figure out certain things, or find certain threads we can reconnect." I think the danger is always something Perry Zurn alluded to. It's the danger of speaking on behalf of a person who was silenced—however well-intentioned that might be—because that can simply duplicate the violence in another form. Spivak has a word for this, ventriloquism. I take that problem very seriously, so my whole project is really fraught with self-limitations, cautions, attempts to do something but not too much, not to fabulate in ways that are too problematic.

I'll just say parenthetically that I think Saidiya Hartman's attempts in this regard are quite problematic. We work in very similar archives, just two different national contexts. I'm troubled by her use of what she calls fabulation, though I very much appreciate the questions she asks and I understand the rationale for her narrative techniques. My way of approaching silences is very different. It's a much more careful interpretive process of marking out the boundaries, dealing sensitively with the traces of silenced voices, and being scrupulous to avoid over-interpretation.

The colonial archives are full of elite sources—administrative memos, letters, court documents, and so on—and I'm often forced to work from them and try to triangulate what's being silenced in the midst of this busy administrative and commercial discourse. One thing that's really helpful is affect. Colonial domination was often a very fraught and paranoid enterprise, and you can see the reverberations of that among the people who were subordinating others and creating these silences. Following their affective traces allows a kind of working backwards to see who was being silenced and under what conditions.

I also find it really useful to take advantage of the temporal characteristics of genealogy. Sometimes you find brief moments in which some silenced subaltern surfaces, becomes present, and then vanishes again. In those cases, you get a glimpse of what you might be able to suppose was silenced before and then re-silenced after. And so obviously it's always a matter of interpretive caution and proceeding carefully, but in a very explicit way. At least that's how I try to work through it.

Erlenbusch: I have a question, Kevin Olson, about something you said, which is that you're troubled by Hartman's fabulation. I wonder, going back to something you just said, Perry Zurn, if it makes a difference when one is writing about an archive that's made by a community of which one is a member. Does that figure in the work? For example, Hartman's position with regard to the archive seems to me really different from your position in relation to the archive. So I'm wondering how that difference maybe opens up possibilities or licenses certain moves that people with other relationships to an archive might not have.

First, let me say that I think Hartman's earlier book Scenes of Subjection is wonderful. There, she and I are much more on the same track in terms of our interpretive attention to silences and odd corners of the archive that tell important stories. I come to Wayward Lives as someone who deeply appreciates that earlier book and learned a lot from it. Wayward Lives adopts a very different approach, though. There she narrates characters and episodes from the archive as vividly told stories. She tries to bring them alive for her readers in the style of narrative fiction writing, which she calls fabulation. What troubles me is a seamlessness and suturing over the gaps that's mostly unaccounted for. Instead of indicating interpretive difficulties and opening them up for consideration, they're covered over. Also, she adds many details that aren't supported by the archive. For instance, she paints rich portraits of the emotions and thoughts of the characters in her narration. This style of writing about archival materials carries great risks of ventriloquism: perpetuating subaltern silence by speaking on behalf of a silenced person.

Of course there is a bibliographic apparatus in the back of the book, and you can see that Hartman has done detailed work in a very important archive. The behind-the-scenes work is really fantastic. However, this apparatus also confers a form of academic legitimation on a work that might otherwise be read as a piece of pure fiction. This half-way status is what troubles me most: Wayward Lives is both an interpretation of the archive and a work of fiction, in ways that can't be easily discerned from one another. In that sense, I find fabulation quite problematic on epistemological and interpretive grounds. I'd love to see Hartman take a second pass through these same archives, developing the kind of detailed and insightful analysis we find in Scenes of Subjection. For me, that would be a very rich and fascinating book.

As Verena Erlenbusch pointed out, Hartman's positionality to work in her archive is much better than mine would be, and I very much respect that. However, it's also important to remember that there are large interpretive distances between any highly educated, 21st century intellectual and the marginalized and silenced subjects from previous centuries that we write about. I'm worried that fabulation collapses that distance through a vivid verisimilitude, causing one to lose sight of what's being added and lost, and what risks and conjectures are being taken along the way. Maybe worried is too strong a word. I'll just say that I find the themes and archival bases of Wayward Lives incredibly interesting, but I also find their mode of expression problematic.


I have one final question here I am obligated to offer you all. This is a question about motivation and energy and commitment. How do we manage our own or how do we relate to our own affects and emotions in the archive? How do we relate to ourselves, not just as intellectual creatures who are going in and finding things, but also as creatures who have to persist? We find ways to persist in our work, and we develop habits for persisting through the kinds of experiences we can have in archives.

Some of you have spoken about what we do when we are bored by our material, and yet some past version of ourselves has made a commitment to it. Maybe that would look different too if I am bored by my material, but I have made a commitment to a community to investigate it. And maybe that's a political community, or maybe that's just a community of graduate students. This is related also what Del McWhorter spoke to earlier to about another kind of challenge. I think the phrase you used was sometimes you feel out of your depth.

I often feel out of my depth. I don't know what kind of affect to attach to that, but it maybe vacillates between paranoia, self-doubt, maybe sometimes it gets worse. "What am I even doing here in this space?" However one takes up that feeling of being out of one's depth, how do we manage this? Of course, "management" doesn't seem like the right term, so how do we deal with, or negotiate, or maintain ourselves within or against this? How do we persist through it or how do you know when not to persist through it and just leave the archive or leave the field? I am thinking in the background of some of Paul Rabinow's work on the anthropologist leaving the field. How do you know when to leave the field? How do you know when to leave the archive or if you have to stay longer in the archive?

Parkhurst: I'll give a shot to answering this. I definitely feel that emotions and affects are important in archival research. I want to say it's something along the lines of being disoriented within an archive. It is a very anxiety inducing experience. I think of Nietzsche's Madman from The Gay Science where he says things like, "Where are we going? Backwards, sideways, forward, in all directions? Is there still an up and down?" And my usual first instinct is to grab onto something, some document, to orient myself. But I find that I have to keep myself from doing that because that disorientation is part of getting to know a complex system of relations and interwoven tapestry within the archive. And if you try to make sense of everything from just one point of stability that you grab onto out of desperation, you're not going to get a full picture. I guess I would suggest not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Disorientation can be illuminating.

I don't tolerate boredom very well. I start skimming quickly, or I stop working altogether because if I continue, I'll skim too fast and I'll miss things. So in terms of management of boredom, there's just only so much you can do in a day and you just have to go slower.

But I try not to pick topics that require investigating boring stuff. I tend to get much more fascinated than bored. That's actually really my problem. I get so fascinated with something, I just go off on these tangents and I only want to think about something no one else cares about in the world.

And then people who read my manuscripts say, "There's way too much information here. Nobody needs all of this. Cut it out." So I think fascination, and I really mean that, fastening on something like the eyes of a cobra, seems to be a bigger danger for me than boredom.

Zurn: It's very rare that I'm bored reading about trans life. But I can get bored writing about anything, if it's soulless. To head that off, How We Make Each Other is the sort of poetic theory book that always lights my fire. But that's also complicated because the people I meet in the archives or in interviews often have a very complex, sometimes tortured and certainly tense, relationship to the university and especially to the theory I was trained to write. They hate the kind of highfalutin talk-over-your-head or write-over-your-head sort of stuff. So how do I do this? How do I show up to this archive, to this history, and to these people in ways that honor them and mobilize my talents and keep my soul alive? I do this by rooting my theoretical work in stories and storytelling, but I am deeply aware that the questions of method—and the tensions that undergird them—remain.
McWhorter: For me, some of these archives generate anger. I find that I can read material from the 17th and 18th centuries, and it's laughable. But when it gets into the 19th and the early 20th, I can read about the same kinds of things, but it's too close to my own lifetime, to injustices I can remember, that it makes me very angry. That's something I guess many of us deal with as we're doing this kind of work, and I don't have any advice.
Parkhurst: Yes, I absolutely agree. In some of the work I've done transcribing early intersectional black feminist thought, you hear some of these horrifying stories and experiences they are recounting and it just makes you incredibly angry. And—I don't know—I deal with that anger the same way I did before becoming an academic. When I was working in construction, for example building a house or pouring concrete, the moment you get angry is the moment you're going to do something wrong and make a mistake. So usually when I'm in the archive working and something just makes me so angry, I usually just leave. I know I'm not going to produce anything to help those communities in that moment or in that state of mind.
Erlenbusch: I find the anger easier to deal with. I think anger can be temporarily motivating. I've written papers out of spite and that was purely what fueled it. I don't think it's a place from which you can sustain a whole book project, for instance. But I think there's a related question, which comes up when you open a box and there's some object or images of really gruesome kinds of violence. And there I don't quite know what to do because I'm both thinking about how I'm going to process it, but I also try to think about how I'm going to be a sort of filter or shield for the reader without being patronizing. And I find that a really difficult needle to thread.

One problem that I ran into for the first time in the last year was despair. I've never felt despair while doing this kind of research before, but I was working on the concept of possession and ownership for chapter five and reading a lot of writing from the 19thcentury primarily by Indigenous people in North America, particularly the Great Plains. They're talking about the loss of traditions, of friends, about the epidemics raging through their communities, about horrible poverty, and they're also talking about the loss of the ecosystem that supported, sheltered, and defined their world for centuries. They're talking about watching the world fall apart, the whole world fall apart.

I guess I felt last year, in the midst of crises in our environment and our political and social systems, that we are losing this world and that there may be no human future. That feeling comes and goes all the time these days. Unexpectedly, then, I identified strongly with their despair, confusion, and anger; I wasn't just outraged at the injustice they endured. It was so horrifying, painful, and depressing that I had to stop reading for several weeks. But that experience made me realize that the extent of my current despair over our world is not new. Others have gone through what we tend to think is unprecedented and unique. How much of my current despair is rooted in the same arrogance that caused the destruction of worlds like the Great Plains? We are not so unique. Other people have watched the world collapse before. I find a perverse reassurance in that. I just need to get over myself and do the best I can with what I have.

Koopman: Thank you all. This is a really important point on which to end our conversation. Again, my thanks to all of you for your conversation today, and also for your past work, and your continuing work.


In addition to the participants, thanks are due to Bonnie Sheehey and Simon Ganahl for careful editorial interventions.

Participant Biographies

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Political Philosophy BA program at Syracuse University. She works in political theory and contemporary European philosophy, with a special interest in critical theory and genealogy. She is the author of Genealogies of Terrorism: Revolution, State Violence, Empire (Columbia, 2018) She is currently working on a book on white supremacist terrorism in the United States.

Ladelle McWhorter is Professor Emerita at the University of Richmond, where she held the James Thomas Chair in Philosophy from 2005 to 2015 and the Stephanie Bennett Smith Chair in Women's, Gender, and Sexualities Studies from 2015 to 2022. She is the author of Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization and Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy and is editor of and contributor to Heidegger and the Earth: Essays in Environmental Philosophy. Her current book project, tentatively entitled Unbecoming Persons: The Rise and Decline of Modern Moral Selfhood, traces the ancestry and power investments of moral personhood as it took shape around the turn of the 18th century and the subsequent transformations that resulted in its becoming the dominant subjectivity in Anglo-US life. The final chapters seek ways to think and live responsibly beyond ownership and individualism.

Kevin Olson is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. He is a political theorist who writes on issues of insurgent and popular politics, postcoloniality, cultural politics, poststructuralism, and critical theory. He is currently completing a book entitled Subaltern Silence, and has previously published Imagined Sovereignties: The Power of the People and Other Myths of the Modern Age (Cambridge UP, 2016), Reflexive Democracy: Political Equality and the Welfare State (MIT, 2006), and edited Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser Debates Her Critics (Verso, 2008). He has held residential fellowships as an Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Scholar in Residence at the Château de la Bretesche, France, an Erasmus Mundus Scholar at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, and from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Germany.

William A.B. Parkhurst is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University. He has previously held residential fellowships at Linda Hall Library, Leo Baeck Institute, and The Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He specializes in the history of philosophy with a focus on how archival objects illuminate that history. More narrowly, he specializes in 19th and 20th century continental philosophy with a focus on Friedrich Nietzsche and his influence. His research has been published in Nietzsche-Studien, Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Nietzscheforschung, Studia Nietzscheana, and Schopenhauer-Jahrbuch among others.

Perry Zurn is Associate Professor of Philosophy and affiliate faculty in the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University. He researches primarily in political philosophy, critical theory, and trans studies. He is the author of Curiosity and Power (Minnesota UP, 2021) and the co-author of Curious Minds (MIT, 2022), as well as co-editor of Active Intolerance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), Curiosity Studies (Minnesota UP, 2020), and Intolerable (Minnesota UP, 2021). He is currently writing How We Make Each Other: Trans Poetics at the Edge of the University and co-editing Trans Philosophy: Meaning and Mattering.

Colin Koopman is Professor and Department Head of Philosophy, as well as Director of New Media & Culture, at the University of Oregon. His published work includes How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person (Chicago UP, 2019), Genealogy as Critique (Indiana UP, 2013), Pragmatism as Transition (Columbia UP, 2009), and articles and short pieces in venues ranging from Critical Inquiry to Journal of the History of Philosophy to The New York Times. He is presently working on a book on egalitarianism in data technology, tentatively entitled Data Equals.