Call For Papers: Library and Information Studies and the Mattering of Black Lives


Download a PDF version of the Call for Papers

Guest Editors: Safiya Umoja Noble, Michelle Caswell, Tonia Sutherland, and Sarah T. Roberts

Like many of you, we (Noble, Caswell, Sutherland, and Roberts) have been stunned, saddened, and outraged by the recent, well-documented murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake by the police, as well as the militaristic ways in which police have responded to protestors in the wake of their deaths. We add the names of Floyd and Taylor to a long list of Black people who have meet untimely deaths due to state-sponsored mass murder. We recognize that these murders are instantiations of a system of white supremacy that has touched virtually every aspect of American society for the past half-millennium; other manifestations of this system include the mass incarceration of people of color, racialized forms of surveillance, and vast economic, educational, and health disparities. White supremacy is so engrained in our society that it is often difficult to envision how best to resist this system, imagine a way out of it, and/or dismantle it.  

Although libraries, archives, and museums have a troubled history and ongoing legacy of supporting inequity, racial segregation, and the status quo, we know that the future of our profession, practice, and academic field do not have to look like its past. We are simultaneously encouraged by the efforts of individual librarians and archivists to support protestors, educate the public about the history of white supremacy, and document police violence and resistance to it, and disheartened by the silences of LIS professional organizations and academic institutions on these same issues. We have been simultaneously generating statements, such as the one posted to, while also using the keyword “diversity” in many key national conferences in ways that obscure the escalating anti-black racism in the United States.

In an effort to channel our grief, rage, fears, and motivation for change into something productive, recognizing that communities and individuals are experiencing these national events in myriad ways, we are seeking articles that address the ways in which Library and Information Studies (broadly conceived as an academic discipline, a set of theoretical constructions, and a lived practice) can affirm the importance of Black lives.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • The role of libraries, archives, and museums in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement;
  • The material, affective, and political consequences of the widespread circulation of records documenting Black death;
  • Debates over the efficacy or (un)importance of police body cam evidence;
  • The creation of records documenting police violence by citizens and the material consequences of such documentation for records creators;
  • Professional ethics and the role of LIS professional organizations;
  • Demands for a truth and reconciliation commission and/or reparations and the role of records/archives/archivists in bringing about adjudication, reconciliation, or reparation, including perspectives that put American racism into an international human rights perspective;
  • Ideas, strategies, and manifestos for how we might best proceed as professionals, scholars, and/or concerned humans in dismantling systems of white supremacy and building systems that affirm the importance of Black lives.

We particularly welcome proposals from Black students, scholars, and practitioners.

Please submit up to 500-word abstract proposals for research articles, perspective pieces, or critical literature reviews by January 1, 2021 to Michelle Caswell at caswell at gseis dot ucla dot edu and Tonia Sutherland at tsuther at hawaii dot edu.  Proposals should include main argument or findings, methodologies and/ or theoretical frameworks. Based on submitted abstracts, invitations for full proposals will be sent February 1, 2021. Full submissions will be due May 1, 2021, with rolling publication dates in Fall 2021.

Please direct inquiries about the special issue to Michelle Caswell at caswell at gseis dot ucla dot edu and Tonia Sutherland at tsuther at hawaii dot edu.

Types of Submissions

JCLIS welcomes the following types of submissions:

  • Research Articles (no more than 7,000 words)
  • Perspective Essays (no more than 5,000 words)
  • Literature Reviews (no more than 7,000 words)
  • Interviews (no more than 5,000 words)
  • Book or Exhibition Reviews (no more than 1,200 words)

Research articles and literature reviews are subject to peer review by two referees. Perspective essays are subject to peer review by one referee. Interviews and book or exhibition reviews are subject to review by the issue editor(s).