Archives and Desires for the Past
The 2020-2021 Books Known Only by Title Webinar Series
Kim Haines-Eitzen is the Hendrix Memorial Professor of Early Christianity and Judaism in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, where she also serves as the Director of the Religious Studies Program.
Andrew Jacobs is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School.
Daniel Picus is an assistant professor of Biblical Studies and the Ancient World in the department of Global Humanities and Religions at Western Washington University.
Blossom Stefaniw is a Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation and writes on early Christian textual cultures, masculinity, and feminist historiography of late antiquity.
Esther Brownsmith is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Books Known Only By Title project at CAS and at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society.
The past is inaccessible; the archive, fallible. Grappling with these realities, the archival turn has called for scholars to move past a model of the archive as innocent deposit of texts and artifacts. Instead, we must contend with its political, affective, gendered, and racialized components, including our own instrumentalizing desire for sovereignty and mastery. How do we imagine, or stop imagining, the archive as a foreign and feminized space of enticement, concealment and discovery, penetration and possession?
This panel seeks to shift attention, not only to critical examination of the archive, but also to how the archive, material or imagined, mediates scholarly and other readerly desires for the past. Both ancient readers and "seminal" modern historians have engaged the past through the texts and artifacts they craved, living out that desire in or upon the archive. How are these epistemic, historiographic, and literary desires shaped by gender and race? Which past is the object of desire and which past is scorned? And which subject is the right subject of historical knowledge?
The panel will question how scholars past and present have shaped and been shaped by the archives that we explore. In the process, we will consider the future of archival research and scholarly desire, mapping new methods for navigating the contours of history and emotion.