“The perverse absent-presence”: Disability and the perception of archival representation

Join CTSP, AFOG, and the UC Berkeley Disability Studies in welcoming Gracen Brilmyer, a 2016 CTSP fellow and MIMS 2016 alum, as they present research for their dissertation in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). To make this event accessible for all guests, we ask for your help in making this event FRAGRANCE-FREE [details below].

When: February 4th, 2020, 4:10 – 5:30 pm
Where: South Hall, Room 202

For disabled people, how we see ourselves in history matters. Disabled minds and bodies have historically entered into archival records through the criminalization of disabled—and other marginalized—identities, resulting in the creation of legal, medical, and institutional records making up the majority of records documenting disability. And this, in turn effects the ways in which disability is understood; as disability is often simplified to a medical deficit, a ‘problem’ to be fixed, records such as these have the potential to reinforce stereotypes, perpetuate harmful rhetorics, and limit the perception of disability as purely a medical ‘problem’ of the body or mind.

Lying at the intersection of archival studies, disability studies and qualitative research, this presentation addresses the ways in which disabled people use archives, witness themselves in history, and understand their collective identity. Given that disabled people are often documented through violent processes—such as asylums, arrest records, and medical interventions—this research investigates disabled people’s complicated relationships with historical representation. Through interviews with disabled scholars, artists, activists and community members, this research highlights (1) how we witness the violences of the past through archives, (2) how we often expect to be erased in history, yet, (3) even though much documentation about disabled people is made by people in power, we can complicate the limited perspectives of this documentation and understand it as part of a history of oppression. By centering disabled people’s voices, this presentation considers not only how archival misrepresentation impacts the ways in which non-disabled people may perceive disability, but also how we understand ourselves—as individuals, as a collective, and as part of a political history—in order to demonstrate the complexity of our relationships to archives.

Gracen Brilmyer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where they are also pursuing a certificate in gender studies. Their research lies at the intersection of disability studies, archival studies, and the history of science, where they address coloniality, affect, and disability, primarily within natural history. Their work has been published in Archival Science and Archivaria, and various other journals. They have also published a poster, “Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives,” with Michelle Caswell in the Library Quarterly. They have a background working with biological collections and hold a Master of Information Management and Systems from University of California Berkeley.

Fragrance-Free Event
To make this event accessible for all guests, we ask for your help in making this event FRAGRANCE-FREE. Please refrain from wearing scented products such as perfumes/colognes, scented lotions, clothing with strong detergent scents, etc. while attending this event as they can trigger serious health issues for those with fragrance allergies. We aim to maintain a welcoming and accessible environment for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Thank you for your consideration for all members of our community. More info can be found at:

This event will be live captioned and ASL interpreted. The room is wheelchair accessible via elevator. To request any other accessibility accommodations, please contact: Anne Jonas

Co-sponsored by AFOG and UC Berkeley Disability Studies.