Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
archives, community, lesbian, queer
Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Lesbian Herstory Archives is the oldest and largest lesbian archives in the
world. This dissertation project examines the role of this community archive in
building, defining, redefining, and sustaining community over time. More
specifically, this dissertation seeks to explore the relationship between queer
archives and community through the following research questions:
1. How does the act of archiving produce community?
2. How does a community archive and project of collective memory, rooted
in a specific identity, respond to a radically shifting socio-political
3. In what ways does the deployment of community produce boundaries of
inclusion and exclusion?
Drawing from interviews, participant observation, and archival research, this study
explores how the changing Archives community mirrors the shifting socio-political
climate of the United States. Special attention is paid to how the rhetoric of
community is deployed by the Lesbian Herstory Archives in order to secure needed
resources. Research findings suggest that the power of this rhetoric might be
diminished over time as lesbian identity has become less salient and increasingly
critiqued. Relatedly, this study reveals how, despite the best intentions of the
organization’s founders, the rhetoric of community adopted by the Lesbian Herstory
Archives has often relied on a falsely homogenizing understanding of community
that is based on a universal lesbian identity construction, leading to exclusions
based on race, class, and gender identity. Despite this fact, it is argued that this
notion of community, while ambiguous and ripe for criticism, can be a powerful tool
to mobilize individuals and groups.
Orr, Rebekah, "The Ageing of the Archives: Community, Conflict, and Queer Potential at the Lesbian Herstory Archives" (2017). Dissertations - ALL. 803.