Cultural Framework

Cultural Framework

Courtesy of Kelvin White, Asst. Professor, University of Oklahoma

This is a description of a conceptual framework that was developed from a study in 2008 of archival education in Mexico. The study’s overall goal was to understand Mexico’s archival education infrastructure. In doing so, it sought to provide insight on how communities of African heritage became absent from Mexico’s official record; to understand the role that education of archival professionals might play in addressing or contributing to these absences; and to generate recommendations for how underdocumentation might be partly remediated by changing what is currently taught in formal archival education at the university level. Based on the results of survey data of archival educators and practitioners, semi-structured interviews of cultural gate-keepers in the Afro-Mexican community, and ethnographic data of the ways of remembering in Afro-Mexican communities, a framework was developed consisting of the following six elements:

Conceptual expansion to address issues related to:

  • Different conceptualizations of the record (kinetic, aural, spatial)
  • Different notions of ownership (who owns co-created records and how should this be addressed?)
  • Different notions of the archive (does an archive always have to be a building? What would a living archive look like? When might this be more appropriate?)
  • Different ways of remembering (inscribed or incorporated? What are the implications of each on archival ideas and practices?)

Embeddedness, which addresses:

  • Internships and field experiences to expose students to the archival needs of marginalized communities
  • Locating teaching within communities where learning can be supported through the participation of the entire community

Collaboration, which could address:

  • Integrating community teachers and critical learning models (pedagogy)
  • Partnering with community-based organizations in efforts to strengthen sustained community engagement (and produce equitable mutually beneficial partnerships) through culture-keeping projects

Leadership, activism and ethics to address:

  • Identifying how records and archives (however defined) contribute to the constitution of national and individual identity and history
  • Expanding the archival role in promoting visibility of under-documented communities, especially to secure rights and responsibilities

Reflexivity to address:

  • Critical examination of archival theory and practice and its lineage
  • Critical examination of the educator’s role in the community and its implications
  • Integration of critical approaches (e.g. cultural theory, critical theory, and critical pedagogy)
  • Need more research
  • Expanding the scope of research
  • Examination and addressing of one’s own cultural competence

White’s Pluralization Framework

The framework was developed for the specific purpose of systematically incorporating the interests, needs, and cultural beliefs of diverse communities into archival education curriculum. The provided examples of what each element addresses (above) are examples related to archival education. I believe that these elements also are applicable in guiding how one might go about addressing and respecting many different kinds of communities and identities that make up humanity in ways in that may mutually benefit all parties.

This framework was also useful as a starting point in developing a culturally sensitive graduate‐level curricular framework for the Pluralizing the Archival Curriculum Group (PACG) , which used this framework and their own discussions and experiences, to propose a totally new pluralization model for consideration by individual archival educators, archival education programs, and professional bodies that develop archival education guidelines and/or accredit archival education programs and courses. This proposal has been accepted by American Archivists for publication.

The intent of the above framework is to create a space for dialogue, in which all parties involved should have a desire to engage. “Dialogue,” as I am using it, is not methodological in nature (e.g. everyone is given 10 minutes to speak), but more philosophical. Rather, the emphasis of dialogic action is the epistemological relationship of dialogue, which is the means of developing a better understanding about the object of knowledge without aims of correcting, appropriating, or illegitimating it. The goal is to understand the object of knowledge as taught by the community, or vice versa.

Applying the Framework