About me

Michelle Caswell is an Associate 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 and the Center for Southeast Asian 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 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. You can order the book through amazon here. The book explores the role of archives and records in the construction of memory about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Caswell's research traces a collection of mug shots taken at Tuol Sleng prison from their creation as bureaucratic documents that streamlined mass murder, to their inclusion in archives, digitization, and use by survivors and the family members of victims to spark narratives about the regime and memorialize the dead.

Caswell is also the guest editor of a special double issue of Archival Science on archives and human rights (2014). She is also the co-guest editor, together with Ricky Punzalan and T-Kay Sangwand, of a  special issue of the new Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies on Critical Archival Studies in which we define "critical archival studies."

She is the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), an online repository which documents and provides access to the diverse stories of South Asian Americans.

In 2016, she was awarded a three-year, $325,000 Early Career Research Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to study the users of community-based archives in Southern California.

In 2016, Caswell was also a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Mandela Dialogues on Memory Work 2, a program organized by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in South Africa and the German Global Leadership Academy that convenes an international dialogue series for thought leaders and change agents in the field of memory work.

Caswell's research interests include:
  • critical archival studies
  • digital archives
  • community heritage informatics
  • public history
  • archival theory
  • information ethics 
  • race. gender, class, and sexuality in LIS
  • dismantling white supremacy in archives and libraries
  • social justice, human rights, pluralism, and archives 
  • community archives as alternatives to mainstream institutions 
  • the politics of accountability, ownership and access
  • the collective memory of violence 
  • archival pedagogy 
  • visual culture 
She takes a social justice and pluralist approach to archival education, encouraging students to make connections between records creation, archival management, power and representation. You can read more about that approach in an article she co-authored with her students: "Implementing a Social Justice Framework in an Introduction to Archives Course: Lessons from Both Sides of the Classroom."

She holds a PhD in Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012. She also holds a BA in religion from Columbia University, an MTS in world religions focusing on South Asia from Harvard University, and an MLIS with an archives concentration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her articles have appeared in Archival Science, Archivaria, American Archivist, The Journal of Documentation, InterActions, Libri, Archives and Manuscripts, The Public Historian, The International Journal of Human Rights, Reconstruction, Library Quarterly, The Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies and numerous edited volumes.