Advocacy & Social JusticeLawNonprofit & NGOs

HIST 270 – On Evidence: Archives, Museums, and Prisons

This course introduces an interdisciplinary study of the idea of evidence in connection to the modern development of archives, museums, and prisons, by setting this in a contemporary dialog with the discourses on state violence, incarceration, and refugeetude. This course will firstly establish historical and theoretical connections between carcerality, Western archival record-keeping practices (e.g., scientific grids, mugshots, taxonomies, and forms of surveillance), and museological frameworks developed during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century.

Furthermore, it considers how records, artifacts, digital data, bones, sites of “memories,” oral traditions, embodied knowledge, or intergenerational trauma can become evidentiary material. Such inquiries are central to decolonial archival studies as they are critical for historically marginalized, racialized, and gendered subjects, whose claims to social justice, human rights, and cultural heritage are tied to the aftermaths of slavery, genocides, and colonialism. Our readings and discussions will specifically draw upon decolonial archival studies, digital humanities, visual studies, human rights discourse, Asian American studies, Black studies, and Indigenous studies, which have continuously challenged what constitutes evidence.

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