Decolonized Listening in the Archive: A Study of How a Reconstruction of Archival Processes and Spaces can Contribute to Decolonizing Narratives and Listening
In 2019, Stó:lō writer and scholar Dylan Robinson, and Tlingit curator and artist Candice Hopkins,
created Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts, asking Indigenous artists and musicians to reflect on
how a score can be a tool for decolonization. In response, Indigenous artists contributed scores in
the form of beadwork, graphic notation, and more, effectively challenging traditional notions of
western colonial music-making and performance practices. Drawing upon the exhibit Soundings, as
well as Robinson’s book Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies (2020),
this paper seeks to understand how to decolonize archives in ways that impact the description,
preservation, and settler experience of music created by Indigenous artists. Robinson argues that by
increasing our awareness of and acknowledging our settler colonial listening habits, listeners can
engage in decolonial listening practices that can deepen our understanding of how Indigenous song
functions in history, medicine, and law. By centreing Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and
stewardship in archival settings, Indigenous musical records can be described and preserved
according to Indigenous frameworks. I propose the use of content management systems such as
Mukurtu and Local Contexts, as well as reparative archival description, to centre Indigenous
frameworks and Traditional Knowledge in the archive. This paper also presents three case studies to
demonstrate both the problematic aspects of current mainstream archival practices, as well as how
Mukurtu, Local Contexts, and reparative archival description can work to centre Indigenous
Traditional Knowledge and stewardship.
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