Rallying women: activism, archives and affect

Publication Name

Women's History Review


In January 2017 over 400,000 women marched in Washington DC—while others marched in cities across the world—to protest the election of a misogynistic president and to draw attention to gendered and racialised inequality. Since then, operating as Women’s March the US organisation has staged subsequent marches which both extend the group’s activism and commemorate the original event. Activists have referenced the historical precedents that they believe will help them to successfully construct the group’s memory culture and identity and produce the emotion and affect needed to sustain their movement. Cognisant that they are making history through mobilising year after year, they have also developed strategies for archiving that history for greater acessibility. In this article, we examine the place of history and historical literacy—both knowledge of history and the skills to interpret its significance—in the nexus between memory, affect and activism. A lack of historical literacy has the potential to create an exclusive memory culture which risks inflicting trauma on those already traumatised by current and historic events; while attention to preserving and making available history as it is being made helps to build pride and solidarity and ensure the intergenerational transmission of feminist knowledge.

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