Events Calendar

A "peculiar satisfaction": Library classifications, their...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
12:00 pm - 1:20 pm
FIMS and Nursing Building (FNB)
Room: 4070

A "peculiar satisfaction": Library classifications, their subjects, and statecraft

Presented by Melissa Adler, Assistant Professor, as part of the FIMS Seminar Series.

Abstract: Reading library classifications as primary historical documents provides a critical lens through which to view the arrangements of subjects on library shelves. This talk will explore some of the ways in which libraries organize objects of study in relation to one another and in relation to projects of statecraft. It will present some of the terms and hierarchies that structure knowledge in systems such as the Library of Congress Classification and Thomas Jefferson’s book classification to consider processes by which epistemic violence becomes systemic. If we understand classifications and their applications to be ever-expanding sets of statements, we begin to see that classification systems frame ongoing narratives about race, sexuality, citizenship, and national identity. The lines of library shelves cross through time and space and institutions and categories, composing and providing the scaffolding that constitute and sustain power relations. Historical studies of classifications offer insights into the social and political functions of hidden infrastructures that organize knowledge in physical spaces like libraries, as well as digital spaces like search engines and social media.

Faculty of Information and Media Studies
Karen Kueneman

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