This week we were asked to consider: “what legitimately belongs in the archive.” Now, this itself might be considered outside of the archive but the readings from this week reminded me of my Mass Media and the Fashion Industry class that I took while studying abroad while in Paris. One of the things we discussed heavily in this class was subcultures. All fashion movements and widespread trends begin out of the mainstream—in subcultures. Vivian Westwood and her incorporation of discursive London punk style into her collections is the prime example. She took something that was outside of what was considered fashionable and made it safe and accessible to everyone. Now, the punk look is everywhere. I feel that the archive is similar in many ways. Many if not all ideas are originally considered revolutionary, outside of the norm of what can become successful, or just plain wrong. To exclude things from the archive simply because they are not valued in certain peoples’ eyes takes away from the amazing contribution they could pay to the learning and creative stimulation of future generations of learners.
In today’s day and age, preserving knowledge is not (as) difficult. Everything is online, hidden away on some obscure website or another. Categorizing it might be another matter and organizing it in a way that it can be useful is no doubt difficult, but still not as difficult as it once was before the digital age. I find it interesting that Halberstam discusses how “growth in the academic study of popular culture…has led to the expansion of materials deemed appropriate for research library collections.” In my eyes, of course academic studies of popular culture should be included in the archive. So many things stem from pop culture—movies, music, books. And these things in turn are archiving much of what is going on in the current world, both events and the tone of the times.
It seems to me that anything that can advance learning and the human knowledge set or inspire new creativity and the creation of new knowledge which in my mind certainly includes culture should be included in the archive. Knowledge shouldn’t be a seniority complex of important and meaningful versus trivial knowledge and that’s not how the classifications should be drawn up.
When discussing subjugated knowledge Halberstam writes about how “We have to be very creative in the way in which we produce both new vocabularies and new structures.” She discusses how these new ways of thinking and speaking are in fact all a part of a suppressed and subjugated knowledge that have been pushed under the rug as irrelevant and lesser knowledges than the mainstream. I find it interesting therefore that when speaking about the “silly” side of the archive Halberstam seems unconcerned about legitimizing the importance of these texts and writes that they are fun and funny. She also says “they are open texts, in the sense that they do not come with a readymade theory already embedded within them.” I found it interesting that she seems to consider these pieces of knowledge so open for interpretation when earlier she was discussing how it is important to produce solid new vocabularies and structures for discussion. I understand her motivation for wanting to keep silly texts open for interpretation and not saddling them with some complex, politically-driven theories or motivations but at the same time, in order for them to be effectively discussed and dissected there needs to be a common understanding about their place in the archive and a common language for discussing them. I wonder where Halberstam draws the line for creating a happy medium between constructing a structure for subjugated knowledge that breeds healthy discussion and shrouding original material with too many theories that the conversation becomes stifled.