Michelle Caswell is a Professor of Archival Studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is also an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Asian American Studies. As her Google Scholar Profile indicates, her research on archives, memory, public history, and social justice has been widely cited in a range of fields. Her work helps to build a critical feminist approach to archival studies.
She is the Co-Director of UCLA's Community Archives Lab and the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive. In 2017, she co-edited a special issue of The Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies on Critical Archival Studies. She is also the lead organizer of the Archivists Against Collective.
Her most recent book, Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work, was published by Routledge in 2021. Urgent Archives argues that archivists can and should do more to disrupt white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy beyond the standard liberal archival solutions of more diverse collecting and more inclusive description.
Grounded in the emerging field of critical archival studies, this book uncovers how dominant western archival theories and practices are oppressive by design, while looking toward the radical politics of community archives to envision new liberatory theories and practices. Based on more than a decade of ethnography at community archives sites including the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), the book explores how members of minoritized communities activate records to build solidarities across and within communities, trouble linear progress narratives, and disrupt cycles of oppression. Caswell explores the temporal, representational, and material aspects of liberatory memory work, arguing that archival disruptions in time and space should be neither about the past nor the future, but about the liberatory affects and effects of memory work in the present.
Her first book, Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press as part of their Critical Human Rights series in 2014. The book won the 2015 Waldo Gifford Leland for Best Publication from the Society of American Archivists.