Kate Adler, Metropolitan College of New York
Lisa Sloniowski, York University
Nature and Scope of Proposed Topic
From the unspoken emotional depth of our conversations at the reference desk, to the ambient politics of our spaces, to our engagement with public memory and knowledge production, affect fundamentally undergirds everyday life in the library. The editors of this special issue contend that the theoretical framework afforded by the “affective turn” can provide a sharp tool and generative language for naming, attending to and interrogating so much of what is alive beneath the surface in our work.
The attempt to theorize affect however, has proven a confusing project. Perhaps the first problem is that the concept itself is hard to define. In a special issue of Archival Science on the subject, Marika Cifor suggests that the affective turn
represents more than just making affects, emotions and feelings legitimate objects of scholarly inquiry. … At their core, definitions of affect understand it as a force that creates a relationship (conscious or otherwise) between a body (individual or collective) and the world (10).
She goes on to argue that affect is a socially, culturally and historically constructed category. As a theoretical framework, affect, she says, can provide a space to think about the interrelations between the psychic, the body and the social (10). Affective forces are crucial to our sense of place in the world, and affect is key to to the ways in which power is “constituted, circulated and mobilized”(Cifor 10).
Archives were a logical starting point for theorizing affect in the broad context of LIS. The emotional complexity of memory, of nostalgia, and history are pronounced in the archive. Libraries, however, remain under-theorized in the literature. This issue of Library Trends extends this new form of cultural criticism to libraries and library workers specifically. Working with Cifor’s definition, we might ask: how are libraries and librarians also attached to, or caught inside, affective forces? Libraries are (often) more open and chaotic places than are archives. The web of affect in a library, therefore, has different stakes than in archives. Affect provides a lens on so much that is invisible - white supremacy, politics of gender and sexuality, complex class dynamics, invisible labor, collective fantasies of knowledge and order - and making space to explore it can perform useful work in our field, bringing to the fore that which is sometimes obscured in our day to day practice and professional discourse.
More broadly, in “Strange Circulations: Affect and the Library,” we also hope to make a new intervention in wider interdisciplinary conversations regarding the affective register of myriad nodes of work, life and knowledge production.
List of Potential Articles
The following is a list of possible themes that we hope might provoke writers to share their work with us. Our hope is that authors tie a clearly articulated theory of affect to a vision of librarianship, particularly one that doesn’t lose sight of the material and historical consequences of our work. This list is not meant to be exhaustive or prescriptive. Ideally we would have a range of articles across most fields and sectors of librarianship.
- Affective encounters with students, patrons, or faculty
- Affective networks in digital librarianship and digital libraries
- Memory and library collections: decolonizing, indigenizing, queering
- Censorship/Filtering debates and the affect of moral panic
- Radical cataloging as affective labour
- Bibliographic space and the organizing of affect
- Affective flow and the architecture and design of libraries.
- Creating community space
- Intimacy and aesthetics of embodiment in the library
- Librarianship and emotional labor
- Affects of trauma: homeless patrons, overdosing patrons, abandoned children, library anxiety, sexual assaults in libraries
- Public service and the ethics of care work
- Affect in narratives of the “future of the library”
- Affective professional attachments: library neutrality, neoliberalism, neo-utilitarianism
- Affective fantasies of libraries: libraries as symbols, librarian stereotypes and subjectivities, imaginary libraries
- Affects of subversion and transgression, rebellion, revolution, resistance, reading
- Affect, libraries, & theoretical engagements: Queer, Critical Disability Studies, Critical Race Studies, Anti-Colonialism, Feminism, Political Economy
List of Possible Formats
- Scholarly/research articles - theoretically informed analyses, historical explorations, and/or articles based in qualitative or mixed research methods
- Photographic essays – (black and white only)
- Book reviews/interviews/oral histories/roundtable reports
The editors are open to considering other formats although we have a preference for those listed above. If you have an idea for another format feel free to contact the editors to discuss. Complete articles are expected to be in the 4,000-10,000 word range. More information about the stylistic guidelines can be found here: Author Instructions for the Preparation of Articles
Abstracts and proposals should be no more than 500 words. Please include a brief author biography with contact details as well.
Contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Proposals due: September 1st, 2018.
- Notification: October 1st, 2018
- First Draft due: January 7th 2019.
- Expected Publication Date: Winter 2020
Cifor, Marika. “Affecting Relations: Introducing Affect Theory to Archival Discourse.” Archival Science, vol. 16, no. 1, Mar. 2016, pp. 7–31. link.springer.com, doi:10.1007/s10502-015-9261-5.