Paris Womans Liberation Demonstration 1971 foto door Gilles Peress
Paris Womans Liberation Demonstration 1971 foto door Gilles Peress

Feminist in de archieven

De introductie van een reeks over feminisme en archieven

LOVER-redacteuren Marit Bosman en Noortje Willems werken bij Atria, kennisinstituut voor emancipatie en vrouwengeschiedenis, dat een bibliotheek, een archief en een onderzoeksafdeling omvat. Het werk bij Atria heeft bij beiden een intens bewustzijn gekweekt van de historische erfenis die de huidige generatie feministen met zich meedraagt. Wie zich heden ten dage feminist noemt plaatst zichzelf in een traditie en gaat een constante dialoog aan met de nalatenschap van eerdere generaties en met andere feministische bewegingen in de wereld, inclusief alle inconsistenties, onafgemaakte verhalen en onvervulde beloftes. In december viert het Internationale Archief voor de Vrouwenbeweging in Atria haar tachtigste verjaardag en in de aanloop zal LOVER zich zelf in het archief verdiepen. Het startpunt van deze reis is vandaag, 9 juni, omdat het vandaag Internationale Archieven Dag is. De bijdragen in deze reeks zijn in het Engels, maar zullen voorzien worden van een Nederlandstalige inleiding.

LOVER-editors Marit Bosman and Noortje Willems both work at Atria, institute on emancipation and women's history, comprised of a library and an archive, and a research department. Their work at Atria has made them intensely aware of the historical legacy we younger feminists are engaging with. Calling ourselves feminists today firmly places us in a tradition and entails a constant engagement with past legacies and other feminist practices in the world, with all its inconsistencies, broken narratives and unfulfilled promises.

In December the collection IAV (International Archives for the Women's Movement [1]) kept at Atria will be celebrating its 80th anniversary. In anticipation, LOVER will delve into the archive herself. In a following series of articles we interview Rosi Braidotti on her recent move of disclosing the process of her archives being brought to the collection IAV at Atria, we'll revisit the 2015 Doing Gender Lecture by Ann Cvetkovich (author of An Archive of Feelings), we talk with members of the queer-feminist collecting collective Zsa Zsa Zine, and we write about the challenges of bringing sexual and gender diversity into heritage.


The archive opens a different conception of history, not in terms of historicist progress, but as a string of possibilities and potentialities that can be delved into to inspire thought and action in present times. It is a place to ask questions, investigate, as well as a creative locus for activism and art. In The Archival Turn in Feminism Kathy Eichorn explains the renewed interest in the archive in its “ability to restore to us what is routinely taken away under neoliberalism”. What has been taken away from us is not history itself, Eichorn argues, but the “ability to understand the conditions of our everyday lives longitudinally and, more important, the conviction that we might, once again, be agents of change in time and history.”

Eichhorn reminds us that to place a personal collection in an established archive is a powerful authorizing act, not necessarily and merely committed to preservation. She draws on Foucault, who described the Archive as a 'system that establishes statements as events and things' and Derrida, who viewed archives as expressions of power, defining what counts as knowledge. The archive has been theorized as a form of imperial domination, but then there are countless interventions of counter-archives weaving in new or different histories, or changing the notion of what counts as an archive all together.

For us, the archive not only pulls us in the pulse of history and dreamed horizons (of course we ask: Can we still imagine them? And what dreams have gone unrecorded?), it also offers strategies and narratives we can put to use in the present. Iris van der Tuin, with her concept of 'jumping generations', notes that feminist texts from the past offer us with a whole range of varying  strategies that we can adopt according to different contexts in the present. We might be an equality feminist in one situation, and adopt strategies of difference feminism in another.

Here and now we live in incredibly rich times, and we almost take all the possible scripts, strategies and narratives for granted. Archives give us an awe-inspiring account of the work that has been done. The International Archives for the Women’s Movement was founded in 1935 by Rosa Manus, Johanna Naber and Willemijn Posthumus van der Goot, wanting to build on as well as secure the efforts made by women all over the world fighting for suffrage and the right to work [2]. Annette Mevis, archivist at Atria, tells us about her work: “For more than 30 years I have been a collector and preserver of women’s archives and ‘suffering’ from what Jacques Derrida has called ‘archive fever’. Archives are necessary for writing history and using women’s archives can change the whole picture. All too well I realize that I make decisions about whose documents - and therefore whose history – are kept. But I am convinced that my work makes it harder to forget or erase women from history, and makes it easier to find these women and their organizations.”


The archive presents us with a pace and a tangible materiality that we crave for in the fast digital times in which we live. And it makes us question: What do we do with the material traces we leave behind? What do we make of the small anecdotal objects that seem so unimportant but that comprise our shaky dreams and sincerest aspirations? And, of course: where will everything that we put out on the internet, be in fifty years from now?

Zie ook:[1] In Dutch: Internationaal Archief voor de Vrouwenbeweging

[2] The name of the institute (currently Atria, kennisinstituut voor emancipatie en vrouwengeschiedenis) has changed several times, the name of the collection has remained the same and still is Internationaal Archief voor de Vrouwenbeweging (IAV).

Foto 1: Rosi Braidotti, foto Atria, copyright onbekend.
Foto 2: Rosa Manus (1881-1943), Johanna Naber (1859-1941) en Willemijn Posthumus-van der Goot (1897-1989), foto Atria, copyright onbekend.

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