Radical Archiving as Social Psychology From the Future

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Abstract

Drawing on Michelle Fine’s (2006) vision for social psychology, I argue for radical archiving as a means for “bearing witness.” In March 2013, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class action lawsuit against the New York Police Department for their racist “stop and frisk” practices. I was asked by 2 connected collectives to sit in on Floyd v. City of New York and make a live and public documentation of it; Communities United for Police Reform asked me to do it “as an activist”; the Public Science Project asked me to also bring my “critical psychological lens.” How I did so was not planned—it was informed and it was unfolding. Two years on, I push the nascent literature on radical archiving to experiment with how this practice may not (just) offer scripts for the future but signs from an emancipated one. I argue that the reflexive demands of radical archiving make for conditions of instability that, in turn, welcome time-traveling—moments of utopian potential coconstituted by the archiver and the archive—thereby bearing witness to a world that could be. The archive, then, is not a passive object of inquiry so much as an active, unruly companion for strengthening the response-ability of a critical and creative social psychology from the future.

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