• Making Lists, Keeping Time: Infrastructures of Black Inquiry, 1900-1950

    Laura Helton (see profile)
    American literature--African American authors, Library education, Archives--Study and teaching, Bibliography, Periodicals
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    librarians, classification, cataloguing, African American knowledge production, African American literature, Library and Archival Studies, Information, Infrastructure
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    This essay places at the center of twentieth-century African American knowledge production the librarians and collectors who mapped blackness as a capacious site of inquiry in the decades before Black Studies. Between 1900 and 1950, they created infrastructures for inquiry into black history and culture through the production of bibliographies, catalogs, and indexes. A study of these list-making genres illuminates the contested terrain of infrastructure-building for black thought, while also confronting the frequent elisions of curatorial labor in theories of the archive. What becomes apparent when we turn to these figures is that acts of enumeration and organization were urgent and endemic to black thought in the first half of the twentieth century. At a time when black scholars could not access archives and when major reference works did not index black-authored periodicals, the stakes of enumeration were high. In a racially segregated information landscape, black thinkers necessarily made their arguments through lists and catalogs as well as through poetry and prose.
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    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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