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‘To Be Able to Imagine Otherwise’: community archives and the importance of representation


Through data gleaned from semi-structured interviews with 17 community archives founders, volunteers and staff at 12 sites in Southern California, this paper develops a new tripartite framework for understanding the ontological, epistemological and social impact of community archives. Throughout, it reflects the ways in which communities marginalized by race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender and political position experience both the profoundly negative affective consequences of absence and misrepresentation in mainstream media and archives (which it calls ‘symbolic annihilation’) and the positive effect of complex and autonomous forms of representation in community-driven archives (which it terms ‘representational belonging’).

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