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PHOT 15: Survey of Photography


How does colonialism and the values that stem from white supremacy affect the resources that are available for our research? 

What kinds of implicit bias will we expect to see inside these tools, and how can we acknowledge and circumvent it?

How does colonialism and white supremacy impact metadata, which then shapes our search results?


The language people in power use to refer to certain groups affects how we find information about those groups, especially when doing historical research and trying to find primary sources from the past.

From the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA):

  • "Archivists choose what language to use when describing materials. Some of these descriptions were written many years ago, using language that was accepted at the time."
  • "Archivists often re-use language provided by creators or former owners of the material. This can provide important context, but it can also reflect biases and prejudices."

Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • offensive & outdated headings (e.g., "illegal aliens" and Library of Congress' effort to change the term to "unauthorized immigration" and "noncitizens" was opposed by congressional Republicans)
  • assumption of whiteness or maleness (there are no "White" or "Male Authors" headings but there are "Women Authors" and "African American Authors")

Who is (and is not) in the conversation?

We are told that credible, reliable and valuable information is found in peer-reviewed scholarly research, from "respected" and "prominent" sources published in traditional outlets. But who is allowed to contribute? Who is left out? How do we find voices outside of this?

Privilege & Bias in Scholarly Publishing UC Merced

  • Provides a good explanation of and list of resources about scholarly publishing privileges.
  • "All information and information systems have elements of bias because they are cultural products. It is important to acknowledge that the journal articles and the databases you are selecting them from when conducting your research are not as neutral as they might seem."

Improving Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Publishing / Proquest

  • "Conventional scholarly resources do not always accurately or authentically represent the language, viewpoints, values or experiences of underrepresented communities."
  • Roberto C. Delgadillo, Student Services Librarian at University of California-Davis: "...think creatively about the diversity of sources that are available. Content like oral histories, blog posts, independent publications, video and other formats provide vital commentary. While they may not initially be considered scholarly resources, they reflect perspectives, experiences and new frameworks of understanding.”

Finding Diverse Voices in Academic Research / George Mason University Libraries

  • Strategies and resources on searching for and highlighting diverse voices in scholarship.
  • "One of the ways to counter white supremacist teachings and to highlight diverse perspectives is through telling and advocating for counter narratives. These include personal stories and experience of those who do not fall in the white majority sphere. Some of these counter narratives may not come from scholarly sources but would still be valuable to your research."

Grey literature: Advocating for diverse voices, increased use, improved access, and preservation / College & Research Libraries News

  • "GL published by indigenous, local, national, and international organizations whose work focuses on developing policies or sharing timely information can diversify library collections and make hard-to-find information accessible to our communities."

Photographs: Who is the one documenting? 

Native American Photographers Unite To Challenge Inaccurate Narratives / New York Times

  • “We still don’t tell accurate histories of our country and we still don’t frame the United States as a country built on stolen land. So as we try to repair these narratives, they can’t just be told from outside perspectives. They have to be told from an inside viewpoint as well.”
  • Paywall? Access via the library's subscription (no images)

The Photographer's Intent: Understanding the Narratives We Amplify / American Journal of Public Health (editorials)

  • "Sarah Lewis, assistant professor at Harvard University, explores the relationship between racism and the camera. Her work examines how the construction of public pictures limits and enlarges our notion of who counts in American society."
  • Lewis: "Frederick Douglass knew it long ago: Being seen accurately by the camera was a key to representational justice. He became the most photographed American man in the 19th century as a way to create a corrective image about race and American life."


Archives Have the Power to Boost Marginalized Voices | Dominique Luster | TEDxPittsburgh


Archivists have an important job — a job that has the ability to save or erase an individual's history or even the history of an entire people. Dominique Luster works to build a historical view that includes marginalized voices and conscious language. In this talk, she shares lessons of this as put in motion with her work archiving the iconic photography of Charles "Teenie" Harris.

Last Updated: Jul 11, 2024 4:04 PM