CAFe Speaker Series: “The Ambivalences of the Unfixed”

Event Start Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2024 - 4:00 pm

Event End Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2024 - 5:00 pm

Location: Virtual

UMD students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends—join us for the CAFe Speaker Series.


This presentation will explore stereotypes that exist in archival contexts and the assumptions of certainty that they inspire.

Shifting archival approaches from “product to process” and “record to people” require radical inquiries into the archival practices of description and the expediency of such labor, especially in the digitally-mediated realm of virtual repositories. Jamie A. Lee (University of Arizona) considers stereotypes and the ways they function to fix notions of personhood in archival contexts and make expediency even possible. Moving from assumptions of fixity, Lee will explore the ambivalence of the un-fixed and the unfixable in the digital realm. Considering archives—both physical and digital—then, as fixed materials holds people and their shifting identities captive through their own archival records. Rather than the assumed certainties that stereotypes can inspire and that fixed archival records seemingly confirm, Lee looks to the role of archival ambivalence in making room for complex personhood in the re-imagining description practices through digital archives.

Centering the P. Carl Transitional Eyewear eyeglass collection (28 pairs of glasses that span over three decades) as a distinct site for interrogating the paradoxical notion of fixity, Lee challenges the concept and practice of stereotype through their own (un)becoming subjectivities. In considering the shifting subject that comes into view with each new pair of eyeglasses, Avery Gordon’s concept of complex personhood is elucidated as a theoretical statement that animates archival understandings of people as living complicated, dynamic lives that cannot be captured and viewed as forever fixed and unchanging. Through engaging the potentials of digitality, Lee will explore complex personhood as a creative tool to address the complicated and complex cultural imaginings, affective experiences, multi-perspectival voices, and animated and embodied objects that trace power’s presence in the archives. This presentation is meant as a playful unsettling through the ambivalences that a focus on the unfixed reveals.


Jamie A. Lee is Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Associate Professor Digital Culture, Information, and Society at the School of Information, University of Arizona. They are scholar, activist, filmmaker, archivist, and oral historian. They founded and direct the Arizona Queer Archives where they train community members on facilitating oral history interviews and building collections in and with their own communities. With storytelling at the heart of their life’s work, Lee also directs the Digital Storytelling & Oral History Lab and co-founded the Critical Archives and Curation Collaborative, the co/lab, through which they collaborate on such storytelling projects as secrets of the agave: a Climate Justice Storytelling Project, and the Climate Alliance Mapping Project, CAMP. Lee’s 2021 book, Producing the Archival Body, engages storytelling to re-consider how archives are defined, understood, deployed, and accessed to produce subjects. Arguing that archives and bodies are mutually constitutive and developing a keen focus on the body and embodiment alongside archival theory, Lee introduces new understandings of archival bodies that interrogate how power circulates in archival contexts in order to build critical understandings of how deeply archives shape the production of knowledges and human subjectivities. For more on Lee’s projects, visit

Additional Information:

Please contact at least one week prior to the event to request disability accommodations. In all situations, a good faith effort (up until the time of the event) will be made to provide accommodations.


Speaker(s): Jamie A. Lee


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