Towards an Archival Critique: Opening Possibilities for Addressing Neoliberalism in the Archival Field


  • Marika Cifor University of California, Los Angeles
  • Jamie A. Lee University of Arizona



archives, community, neoliberalism, social justice


Neoliberalism, as economic doctrine, as political practice, and even as a "governing rationality" of contemporary life and work, has been encroaching on the library and information studies (LIS) field for decades. The shift towards a conscious grappling with social justice and human rights debates and concerns in archival studies scholarship and practice since the 1990s opens the possibility for addressing neoliberalism and its elusive presence. Despite its far-reaching influence, neoliberalism has yet to be substantively addressed in archival discourse. In this article, we propose a set of questions for archival practitioners and scholars to reflect on and consider through their own hands-on practices, research, and productions with records, records creators, and distinct archival communities in order to develop an ongoing archival critique. The goal of this critique is to move towards "an ethical practice of community, as an important mode of participation." This article marks a starting point for critically engaging the archival studies discipline along with the LIS field more broadly by interrogating the discursive and material evidences and implications of neoliberalism.

Author Biographies

Marika Cifor, University of California, Los Angeles

PhD Student, Department of Information Studies, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Jamie A. Lee, University of Arizona

Assistant Professor, School of Information, University of Arizona