Research Workshop: Working with Archives. Boundaries and Materiality in Archival Research in Social Work, 03.10.2011, Mainz

Organizers: Adrienne Chambon and Stefan Köngeter
Venue: University of Mainz
Time: 3 October 2011
Working with archives in the field of social work and social welfare confronts researcher with questions regarding the boundaries and materiality of archives: What kind of boundaries draw the archivists when he is working with ‘archives’? What boundaries do the researcher recognize? How are both dealing with boundaries of existing or emerging archives? What kind of artefacts are filed and how? How do researcher and archivists deal with different sorts of artefacts, such as photographs, pamphlets, journal articles, objects and so on? Both perspectives lead to the overarching question of: What is considered to be an archive by whom?
Boundaries of archives could be found along a lot of different categories, such as gender, race, class, nation states, and last, but not least professions and disciplines: As social work is a fairly new profession, boundaries of social work are still on the move and consequently concerns and interests in archives are constantly shifting. First of all, archival research related to social work has to take into account that social work is a category that is probably not sufficient to get a grip on the different actors, practices and structures that are important for the development of practices that are considered nowadays as social work. Secondly, the diversity of actors and structures requires a theoretical and empirical sensibility of how categories such as gender, class, culture, age and so on did influence the construction of an archive and the research about these archives. Finally, the archival boundaries are also influenced by the fact that social work has been considered a national endeavor for a long time, but the transnational transfer and production of knowledge constantly took place.
Materiality of archives pose related challenges to archival research in social work. In social work researchers tended to treat archives as supports for texts and texts as disembodied words. However, this approach fails to realize the constructedness of archives and the deliberation and choices made by archiving some kind of artefacts. An inter-disciplinary approach (encompassing visual studies, archival science, history and so on) could reveal the complexity of artefacts and what different insights into the practices and values of social work and the ones who worked on their archiving.
We would like to invite a group of people who are working with archives (defined broadly for now), to engage in theoretical and methodological discussions about the boundaries and materiality in archival research in the broad field of social work.
We would include topics such as: community archives; the creation of archives; the intersection of biographical and institutional archives; the materiality of archives etc.
The workshop would set part of the framework for the special issue of the recently launched online journal Transnational Social Review – A Journal of Social Work.

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