Meryem Choukri, University of Warwick/ Justus-Liebig Universität Gießen
I propose the term archive of resistance to describe the collective memory, history writing and knowledge production of feminist of colour activists in the German context. While I developed the term ‘archive of resistance’ in the specific context of feminist of colour activism in Germany, I hope it can also be useful to approach and understand epistemic resources of other marginalised social movement communities.
Racialised people living in Western Europe find themselves confronted with a racist cultural archive on an everyday basis. The cultural archive holds colonial and racist knowledge which structures society. Referring to Ann Stoler, Gloria Wekker describes this cultural archive as a “repository of memory” which is located in organisational rules, as well as in popular culture and everyday knowledge and “based on four hundred years of imperial rule”. In reaction to this, racialised activists, artists and authors have produced a wide range of responses and cultural productions. These material and immaterial counter archives, or as I call them, archives of resistance, actively oppose racist logics and means of structuring society. Archives of resistance are structures of knowledge, lived experiences and collective memories which cut across the hegemonic cultural archive. They do not replicate dominant power structures but instead question and defy them and imagine otherwise. They challenge hegemonic imaginations and develop alternative visions, languages, and ways of living together. Racialised communities, especially politically organised groups, often actively create and simultaneously draw from counter-histories and alternative records. Therefore, one can find archives of resistance at the margins of traditional archives and libraries, on social media platforms, in music and art, but, most importantly, at the heart of resistant, feminist of colour activism.
As Patricia Hill Collins shows in Black Feminist Thought, the absence of institutions of their own led African-American women in the US to turn to marginal areas of knowledge production to develop Black feminist history, identity and thought.
In this context, Black feminist thought can best be viewed as subjugated knowledge. Traditionally, the suppression of Black women’s ideas within Whitemale-controlled social institutions led African-American women to use music, literature, daily conversations, and everyday behavior as important locations for constructing a Black feminist consciousness.
In feminist of colour movements in Germany, one can also find a strong sense of the importance of knowledge production from the margins, which goes along with an awareness of the silences in hegemonic Western historiography and a demand to see oneself represented in society, as well as in social movements. As Fatima El Tayeb notes, alternative archives thus become a means to (re-)inscribe the presence of racialised communities into the European cultural and memorial landscape, and to question hegemonic concepts of identity and belonging through art, spoken word poetry, performance etc.
Archives of resistance are not buildings where documents are stored (although those can be part of it), nor are they a temple or a tomb. They are living archives which connect different generations and communities of feminists of colour. Archives of resistance are embedded in the everyday lives and struggles of those who build and draw from it. They do not exist outside of political fights for social justice but are located at the heart of social movements. Archives of resistance break open hegemonic Western understandings of archives as centers of power, history writing and violence. They work with and against hegemonic power structures and do not have a center from which they speak but instead present a multitude of nodes and ramifications through which different themes, discourse lines and conflicts become visible. Archives of resistance are contradictory and build a branching network, or in other words, they are rhizomatic. However, this does not mean that they exist outside of hegemonic power structures. Archives of resistance are still marked by economies of visibility and access. For example, it is still easier to gain access to the archive and to become visible in it with higher cultural capital and social status.
Black women and women of colour in Germany have created a huge corpus of cultural production in the last forty years and written, painted, sung and produced the stories of their lives and their experiences of being in the world. In doing so, they built rich, manifold but often scattered archives of their existence, histories, alliances, struggles and (often transnational) connections. Similar to other archives from marginalised groups, these archives work differently and hold different power to traditional state archives. They make the lives and struggles of Black feminists and feminists of colour in Germany visible and show how these histories are always connected to a global history of feminists of colour, as exemplified by the importance of Audre Lorde for the German Black women’s movement. The resistant archive is also a practice of resistance against dominant narratives and forges intergenerational connections. Therefore, archives of feminists of colour movements hold emotions, are proof of past feelings, and evoke an emotional response in their recipients.
As archives of resistance defy existing hegemonic knowledge and power structures, they are often ephemeral. Ephemera, as introduced by José Esteban Muñoz, are “linked to alternate modes of textuality and narrativity like memory and performance: it is all of those things that remain after a performance, a kind of evidence of what has transpired but certainly not the thing itself”. Ephemera therefore are fleeting and difficult to grasp, they leave traces but not evidence. As such, archives of resistance must include at their core things that can never be fully documented or taken as evidence, such as individual experiences, feelings, and emotions.
Archives do not only stimulate emotions; they can also be emotional archives or archives of emotions. Ann Cvetkovich refers to this in the context of queer archives as archives of feelings. Emotions are therefore not a marginal aspect of these archives but instead substantial. This is because experiences and emotions are important sources of knowledge and can be driving forces of political activism.
As archives of resistance are rhizomatic, emotional and ephemeral, researching them poses challenges to academic researchers. It requires scholars to engage with critical (feminist/queer/decolonial) research methodology, pay attention to nuances and to read between the lines. Furthermore, it calls for a self-reflexive stance which engages seriously with research ethics and power dynamics in the field. In my own research, I use an ethnographic approach to work on the subject and to reflect my position in it. For me, it is important to work transparently and with care, and to center my research participants at the core of the project. Researching on resistant knowledge requires the researcher to value the existing resistant knowledge production which often happens outside of academia, to engage carefully with it, and to try to diminish possible adverse effects of the academic research process.
 As I do research on racialised intersectional activists, there is no common self-description that is undisputed. Depending on time, place, political beliefs, and identity activists identify as women, non-binary, queer, feminists, womanist, Black, indigenous, migrant, of colour or else. In the context of this research, I use the term feminists of colour to refer to this loose activist community, while being fully aware that not everybody might feel comfortable with the term.
 Gloria Wekker, White Innocence. Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race, Sereal Untuk (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016), p. LI.
 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought : Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 1991).
 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought : Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 251f.
 E.g. see Maureen Maisha Eggers, ‘Knowledges of (Un-)Belonging. Epistemic Change as a Defining Mode for Black Women’s Activism in Germany’, in Remapping Black Germany. New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture, ed. by Sara Lennox (Amherst & Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016), pp. 33–45.
 Fatima El-Tayeb, European Others. Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe (Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011)
 Achille Mbembe, ‘The Power of the Archive and Its Limits’, in Refiguring the Archive, ed. by Carolyn Hamilton and others (Dordrecht: Springer-Science+Business Media, B.V., 2002), pp. 19–26.
 I.e. see Mai-Anh Boger and María do Mar Castro Varela, ‘Was Ist Postkoloniale Bildung (Überhaupt)?’, in Bildung-Ein Postkoloniales Manifest, ed. by BildungsLab* (Münster: Unrast Verlag, 2021), pp. 11–16.
 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Rhizom (Berlin: Merve, 1977).
 These resistant archives can be found in poems by May Ayim, Lahya Aukongo, Semra Ertan or Guy St. Louis, in libraries and archives such as the Audre Lorde archive or EOTO e.V. in Berlin, in songs from Nura, Ebow or OneMother; novels from Mithu Sanyal, Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, SchwarzRund, and countless more documentaries, movies, paintings, podcasts, as well as in autobiographies and academic works.
 José Esteban Muñoz, ‘Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 8.2 (1996), 5–16 (p. 10)
 Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings : Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Duke University Press, 2003).
 See for example Audre Lorde’s essay The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism, where she argues that anger can be an important driving force for change and calling out of injustice.
Boger, Mai-Anh, and María do Mar Castro Varela, ‘Was Ist Postkoloniale Bildung (Überhaupt)?’, in Bildung-Ein Postkoloniales Manifest, ed. by BildungsLab* (Münster: Unrast Verlag, 2021), pp. 11–16
Cvetkovich, Ann, An Archive of Feelings : Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Duke University Press, 2003)
Eggers, Maureen Maisha, ‘Knowledges of (Un-)Belonging. Epistemic Change as a Defining Mode for Black Women’s Activism in Germany’, in Remapping Black Germany. New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture, ed. by Sara Lennox (Amherst & Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016), pp. 33–45
El-Tayeb, Fatima, European Others. Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe (Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011)
Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, Rhizom (Berlin: Merve, 1977)
Hill Collins, Patricia, Black Feminist Thought : Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 1991)
Mbembe, Achille, ‘The Power of the Archive and Its Limits’, in Refiguring the Archive, ed. by Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Jane Taylor, Michele Pickover, Graeme Reid, and Razia Saleh (Dordrecht: Springer-Science+Business Media, B.V., 2002), pp. 19–26
Muñoz, José Esteban, ‘Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 8 (1996), 5–16
Wekker, Gloria, White Innocence. Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race, Sereal Untuk (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016).