My name is Madhu Narayan. On twitter, I go by @ladymadrietta. I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. My research interests include rhetorical history, theory, archives, queer rhetorics and cultural rhetorics. I also like nonfiction writing. This year, in addition to being a CHI fellow, I am teaching, finishing up my dissertation, and applying for jobs. Phew. In my “free” time, I like to knit, crochet and cross-stitch. Currently, I have several craft projects in-progress, most notably a blanket that I have been working on for over a year. I am not sure when I’ll finish it. I also like making zines, although I am not very good at it. Really, I just like making things.
In my dissertation, I put rhetoric and composition scholars in conversation with archivists and archival theorists. I develop a framework for studying archives as material spaces. Drawing form the work of archivists such as Joan Schwartz, I argue that the metaphor of the archive, as described by theorists such as Thomas Richards (in The Imperial Archive) or Foucault (in The Archaeology of Knowlegdge), is not always a useful lens for studying material archival spaces. Instead, for me, the materiality of each archival space is unique; no two archival spaces are alike since they all serve different cultures and communities. In relation to this idea, I also became interested in understanding how archives reproduce the identities/politics of specific communities or cultures. So, in my dissertation, I looked at the way in which the University Archives at Urbana-Champaign and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, New York preserve materials that are representative of the identities of their communities. I found that this was a circular process: communities preserve materials that are intimately linked to their identities; these archival materials in turn continue to sustain the identities that communities wish to preserve. So in this way, archives sustain communal identities and vice-versa (Kaplan 2000).
My dissertation research has made me increasingly curious about digital materiality and as a CHI fellow I’d like to read and write about this idea a lot more. I am interested in the work of scholars like Matthew Kirschenbaum whose book Mechanism has been instrumental in helping me think about digital materiality. I’d like to think about digital archival records as material objects and how this might help rhetorical scholars and historians. Given that digital archives are becoming more prominent in rhetoric and composition, I’d like to explore the material design of such archives. Here are a couple of digital archives that I am interested in blogging about over the next few months: The William Blake Archive (http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/) and the Walt Whitman Archive (http://www.whitmanarchive.org/).
I am excited about working with this year’s group of CHI fellows! Having been out of coursework for a couple of years, I have missed the sense of community that a diverse group of scholars can generate. I am also looking forward to making a digital project eventually and hope the next few months will be generative. Thanks for reading!