About me

Michelle Caswell is an Assistant 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 Center for Southeast Asian Studies. As her Google Scholar profile indicates, her research on archives, memory, 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.  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. The book also addresses the incorporation of the mug shots into tourist images which are then uploaded on flickr, Facebook, and travel blogs. The book was reviewed in The Public Historian and The Journal of Asian Studies.

Caswell is also the guest editor of a special double issue of Archival Science on archives and human rights (2014).

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. SAADA was profiled by The New York Times in August 2012.

Caswell's research interests include:
  • archival theory
  • information ethics 
  • 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 cultural diversity. 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."

The South Asian American Digital Archive Community Forum, 2012.
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 and numerous edited volumes.