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Archiving from Below

Monthly Working Group 
First meeting Thursday 22nd Feb 2024


In our day, the traces of our radical movements are being thrown into rubbish pits, as state-sponsored “austerity” demands the commodification of every inch of space, and with sinister intent destroys the evidence of our past, its joys, its victories. Clear out the closets, empty the shelves, toss out the old footage, shred the underground press, pulverise the brittle, yellowing documents! Thus neoliberalism organises the transition from the old to the new; they must silence alternatives. We do not want the voice of George Jackson to be silenced. His words still eloquently describe a desirable program, a necessary program.

Peter Linebaugh, Archiving at the MayDay Rooms



Since its inception, MayDay Rooms has been built on the principle of archiving from below, challenging the conventional institutional methods of gathering, shaping, and disseminating the history of struggles.

As we enter our tenth year, we are launching a reading and discussion group to address the practices of archiving from below and strategies of activating the histories of resistance. 

The group is open to archivists, researchers, historians involved in both past and present organising, and anyone interested in radical archives. Our aim is to share our own approach, learn from each other, and collaboratively develop counter-archival practices that extend beyond mere critique.

The first session will introduce the idea of archiving from below, followed by a discussion about our future sessions. This will provide an opportunity to invite speakers and suggest readings and topics for these sessions.

To give an idea of the topics and areas for discussion, they range from History from Below to Archiving from Below, archiving marginal histories, moving towards an archival ‘commons’ and against institutional enclosure, using archives as preservation, exploring archives of archives, digital gleaning and autonomous online repositories, different methods of archiving struggles, and strategies for connecting radical histories to contemporary struggles, among others.

Later this year MDR will organise a conference on Archiving from Below. 

If you are interested in joining the group and can commit not coming regularly, please send a bit about your background to rosemary@maydayrooms.org and she will get back to you with more details.

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