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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Implementing a Social Justice Framework in an Introduction to Archives Course: Lessons from Both Sides of the Classroom


Using the reflections of both the instructor and students on lesson plans from three course sessions, this paper argues that a social justice framework can be practically implemented in an introductory archives classroom such that students are imparted with both the rationale for classical Western archival concepts and functions and the modes to critique such functions from a social justice perspective. After a brief introduction summarizing course logistics and the action research methodology employed, this paper proposes a working definition of social justice and discuss in detail what constitutes a social justice pedagogical framework in archival education. Next, this paper describes and analyzes a small group exercise on the concepts of record, provenance, and creatorship, detailing ways in which students can be both taught prevailing archival concepts and encouraged to critique these concepts from a social justice perspective. This paper then addresses a group discussion concerning power, marginalization, and listening for whispers in the archives, revealing how records can be used in the classroom to illustrate complex theoretical concepts. This paper then discusses the effectiveness of an exercise using three real-life human rights case studies to impart the importance of ethical action in archival practice. In conclusion, the challenges of implementing this framework will be discussed as well as suggestions for future research.

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