Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In the spirit of Derrida’s axiom, “there is no political power without control of the archive,” Interference Archive, a social movement culture archive, art-making and event space in Brooklyn, NY attempts to redefine the archive as an activist project in radical democracy. The proposed paper will examine how IA’s “open access” policy (anyone can browse the collections or become a member) and organizational structure (all volunteer, leaderless, de-centralized working groups) are designed to subvert expert/institutional knowledge production and circumvent ideology and identity as organizing principles of political collectivity. Building from ethnographic studies of social movement epistemology (Juris and Khasnabish 2013; Casas-Cortés, Osterweil and Powell 2008), the paper will consider how the practices at IA undermine positivist conceptions of action as constitutively distinct from thought and “effective” action as that which takes place in an already existing field of politics whose constitutive elements are presupposed—conceptions upon which theory-practice, expert-activist dichotomies rely. The paper will argue that IA’s practices challenge the claim by ‘collaborative anthropology’ that ethnographic fieldwork, as a form of co-laboring across disciplinary/expertise boundaries, creates new social relations, subjectivities and worlds (Holmes and Marcus 2008; Fluehr-Lobban 2008; Strohm 2012, 2019). The volunteers at IA view the labor-time expended by researcher and informant in the processes of co-laboring as constitutive of different forms of value that are directed toward different ends. This paper will consider why the category of labor-time, as an historically specific form of capitalist value, continues to be a theoretical blind spot for anthropology (De Genova 2013, 2016).