|Interrogating the University Archive|
Page 1 of 3
Gregory Lee Cuéllar, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Gregory Lee Cuéllar has been named assistant professor of Old Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, beginning in January 2011. Prior to this, he has served as curator and lecturer of rare books and manuscripts, curator and lecturer of Hispanic resources, and subject specialist of religious studies at the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A & M University; adjunct professor at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University; visiting professor of Old Testament at Seminario Metodista Juan Wesley in Monterrey, Mexico, and adjunct professor of Hebrew Bible at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Cuéllar has authored Passages in the New World (Cushing Memorial Library Archives, 2006) and Voices of Marginality: Exile and Return in Second Isaiah 40–55 and the Mexican Immigrant Experience (Peter Lang Publishing, 2008), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. He has a forthcoming book titled Archival Criticism: The Interrogation of Contexts and Texts in Early Modern Biblical Criticism (Brill, 2012).
University Archives and the Representation of Knowledge
For students, faculty, and the public, university archives represent a kind of obligatory passage point for legitimating the true meaning of human experience. They emerge not just as a value-neutral repository of facts, but as institutions that fashion histories. As Elisabeth Kaplan observes, “Archivists are major players in the business of identity politics. Archives appraise, collect, and preserve the props with which notions of identity are built” (Lowenthal, 200). In many instances, the unquestioned assumptions underpinning this process are that the non-Western “Other” has neither a sense of national history nor a historical consciousness from which a distinct identity can be shaped.
Such assumptions can be traced back to the preeminent archive of comprehensive knowledge; the British Museum. For instance, in a late nineteenth century guide to the British Museum’s Ethnographical Gallery, wherein the continents exhibited were from Asia, Oceania, Africa, and America, the curator informs the public of the following:
Here, in the archive, the cultural productions of the savage non-Western “Other” are, in Tuhiwai Smith’s words, “dismissed as irrelevant, ignored, or rendered as the lunatic ravings of drunken old people” (Decolonizing Methodologies, 29). Hence, strategies for collection development in a university archive should involve an interrogation not only of archival texts, but also of archival processes that unfold within and are structured by sociopolitical relations, dominant intellectual frameworks, established codes, conventions, and values — which together work to constitute representational forms of power.
Before archivally produced knowledge enters the classroom and scholarship, archivists, administrators, and faculty must identify those governing procedures within the university’s archives that create oppressive categories of arrangement, languages, and concepts of the “Other.” University archives, both as a physical space and as a collection of texts, require vigorous and constant scrutiny to expose and eliminate any potential “othering” mechanisms.