- Creating Counter Archives:The University of Washington Bothell's Feminist Community Archive of Washington Project
On June 23rd, 2017, the Gender Justice League held its fifth annual Trans Pride event, an event that came to be because of the exclusion and underrepresentation of the trans and gender diverse community at larger pride events.1 As a genderqueer and genderfluid individual, it was incredible to learn that there was an event during Pride weekend that was specifically catered to our small subgroup within the LGBTQIA+ community. It was at this event that trans and gender diverse individuals found a sense of community and inclusion. Most importantly it was a space of love, a space of support, a space of acceptance.
Prior to the archive assignment we discuss in this article, my knowledge about my social position as well as resources to which I have access were nonexistent. I was relying on my pure sense of resilience to get me through the days. I was alone, walking through a world that wanted to oppress me for living my truth. I always wanted to make efforts to improve my situation, but I did not know how, and I was convinced that I was in this effort alone. As a marginalized individual you feel isolated and alone most of the time and creating change for yourself and your situation is quite difficult without a support system. Then I met some of the leaders of the Gender Justice League and I was able to reimagine what my life could be like. Had it not been for the archive assignment, I may have never known about Trans Pride. Had I never had the opportunity to interact and engage with the Gender Justice League, I would not have realized that there is a larger community of gender diverse individuals where I live. Since coming in contact with these folks, I have finally begun to feel included in the larger scheme of life and no longer feel like an outsider. I had the opportunity to learn about my community's history and become familiar with the challenges and issues myself and others within it face. Most importantly, I now feel that I have a sense of agency to change my current situation and I am not alone. I have the tools and support system to do so and there are no words to describe how safe and comfortable that makes me feel. I could not imagine nor ever anticipate that a class assignment could have such lasting effects.2
Using feminist pedagogical practices that incorporate student knowledge production and digital scholarship methods, [End Page 47] a team at the University of Washington Bothell founded the online, open-access Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA). Faculty, students, and the library partner with local feminist and gender justice organizations to develop content for the archive. As part of a core gender, women, & sexuality studies (GWSS) course, our/the assignment asks the students to collect artifacts and conduct interviews with activists that document the current work and histories of their organizations. The library has archived these materials and made them available in an open-access, online digital collection. In an era of disappearing information and contested stories—for example, the Trump administration removed the White House's LGBTQ page3 within hours of the sparsely attended4 inauguration—the FCA-WA aims to expand the archival record and serve as a permanent and open home for the histories of groups and individuals working to support social justice for women, femmes, gender-nonconforming folks, and their allies.
We contend that the assignment and archive, in addition to being a repository for potentially forgotten histories, are projects that embody intersectional feminist praxis and work toward upsetting academic structures of inequity. Universities are hierarchies of knowledge, knowledge production, and people (Lewis). In the academy, marginalized peoples' stories and research methods are rendered invisible; classes and assignments that "speak to" or are taught by minoritized students and faculty are not the norm. Similarly, archives are typically created and maintained by non-marginalized scholars, ultimately reflecting the stories of the elite...