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The Struggle Continues: Archival Approaches to Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and the American South

King, James (2018) The Struggle Continues: Archival Approaches to Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and the American South. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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When police and counter-protesters broke up the first march of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in August 1968, activists sang the African American spiritual, “We Shall Overcome” before disbanding. The spiritual, so closely associated with the earlier civil rights struggle in the United States, was indicative of the historical and material links shared by the movements in Northern Ireland and the American South. While these bonds have been well documented within history and media studies, the relationship between these regions’ archived materials and contemporary struggles remains largely unexplored. While some artifacts from the movements—along with the oral histories and other materials that came later—remained firmly ensconced within the archive, others have been digitally reformatted or otherwise repurposed for a range of educational, judicial, and social projects.
By charting the archival afterlives of civil rights movements, my dissertation explores how approaches to archiving civil rights materials in Northern Ireland and the American South have intersected and diverged. In so doing, it reveals how civil rights archives intervene in contemporary social justice issues. My research is structured as a qualitative comparative case study, involving semi-structured interviews, field observations, and the collection of textual data at four research sites in the American South and Northern Ireland. The study examines how civil rights record keepers in these two regions interpret and act on a variety of imperatives for both archiving civil rights materials and potentially repurposing them for contemporary social justice.
While missions, mandates, and organizational structures vary among research sites, I argue that every archive studied facilitates social justice in some fashion. In fact, my study finds that civil rights archives in Northern Ireland and the American South draw on a range of overlapping approaches to intervene in contemporary social justice issues. The varying types of social justice responses revealed in the study indicates a continuum of archival social interventions, with each civil rights archive working at points between the poles of activism and neutrality. The sites are thematically interconnected by education, digital spaces, and reconciliation, which show how archives turn their activist or neutral philosophies into real-world actions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
King, Jamesjak221@pitt.edujak221
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCox,
Date: 2 July 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 November 2017
Approval Date: 2 July 2018
Submission Date: 28 June 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 309
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Computing and Information > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social Justice, Transnational social movements, neutrality, archival activism, Civil Rights and memory
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2018 12:35
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 12:35


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