Archives and the Labor of Building Feminist Theory: An Interview with Sharon Davenport

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Vani Kannan


This article traces the labor of archiving the papers of the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA)--a multiracial women’s organization that grew out of the Civil Rights/Black Power movements and maintained active chapters in NYC and the Bay Area during the 1970s. By focusing on the labor of archiving, I take a lead from the methodologies of social-movement scholars in rhetoric and writing who orient to the behind-the-scenes labor of organizing, and the everyday textual labor of building movements and preserving movement histories (Leon; Monberg). My embodied experiences as a cross-disciplinary teacher/scholar of rhetoric and composition and women’s and gender studies, and organizer who prioritizes behind-the-scenes, feminized labor like internal document preparation and childcare—orient me to the labor that scaffolds more public-facing work like publishing theory and speaking publicly. Drawing on an interview with Sharon Davenport, who processed the TWWA’s archives, this article situates archiving as indispensable, feminized, and often-invisible labor that builds the context for feminist writing, theorizing, and teaching in institutions of higher education.

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