2017 Winner: The Art of Living Archives: Heartographies in Queer/Feminist Historiography

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The Art of Living Archives: Heartographies in Queer/Feminist Historiography
This paper engages critically and creatively with new and transformed conceptualizations of “queer” and translates that into a mode of writing history itself. Written as a tribute to my late mother, Shareeza Shireen Ali-Higgins, my work situates a politics of memorializing as a catalyst to communicate the intersectional and intra-active ways in which artists powerfully preserve and construct their own histories through re-membering the past. As a simultaneous present-day and past-life formulation, the archives of my mother’s history, culture, life and death culminate as the locus of my analysis. I will illuminate how these traces of my mother’s past are so deeply a part of her story and map connections to a larger historical background that is the diaspora.

Mobilizing critical examinations of queerness through a series of archival sources, I begin each section of my paper with a material from my mother's belongings. In an effort to prompt discussion regarding disparate, yet resonant connections, each material I have chosen paints a portion of this messy memorialization. I examine an oral history, my mother’s paintings, the velvet green large photo album, her abundant collection of jewelry, and a dance performance by my mother. My analysis draws on theories of utopia, trauma, art, performance, the erotic, and my lived experience. Ultimately, my work aims to place my mother’s life story in crossroads with different forms of queer and feminist analyses, with the assertion that: "Queerness, if it is to have any political resonance, needs to be more than an identification and to articulate a forward-dawning futurity” ("Cruising Utopia", José Esteban Muñoz, 2009, 87).
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  • Hannah Kamilla Higgins (Oakes)