I pursue research that explores the intersections between rhetoric, LGBTQ archives, and materiality—both literally, in the sense of physical materials and their circulation, as well as the material-rhetorical practices engaged in the formation and curation of queer archives. Rhetoric and Composition has long been interested in archival research, but research that centers archives themselves—i.e., that takes an archive as its subject, rather than the histories contained within an archive—remains undertheorized. Synthesizing insights from queer theory and rhetoric, new materialism, and archival theory, my research asks what might become visible when we center archives and archival practices in rhetorical inquiry.
As part of this research, my dissertation explores the material-rhetoric of the Williams-Nichols Archive, an archive of LGBTQ materials now housed at the University of Louisville and collected by Louisville activist David Williams. Examining the formation and movement of the archive—from grassroots social movement spaces, to David’s home, and eventually to the University—I argue that the production of LGBTQ archives demonstrates a form of circulating queer rhetoric, that this rhetoric engages and entangles a number of human and non-human phenomena, and that this entanglement challenges the practices of both professional archivists and grassroots stakeholders. In this work, I aim to both advance understandings of queer rhetoric and archives, and also to consider the ways a more developed understanding of how archives are formed might inflect our archival methodologies.