The modern age is no stranger to the cabinet of curiosities, the freak show, or a drawer full of odds and ends. These collections of oddities engagingly work against the rationality and order of the conventional archive found in a university, a corporation, or a governmental holding. In form, methodology, and content, The Year’s Work in the Oddball Archive offers a counterargument to a more reasoned form of storing and recording the avant-garde (or the post-avant-garde), the perverse, the off, the bent, the absurd, the quirky, the weird, and the queer. To do so, it positions itself within the history of mirabilia launched by curiosity cabinets starting in the mid-fifteenth century and continuing to the present day. These archives (or are they counter-archives?) are located in unexpected places—the doorways of Katrina homes, the cavity of a cow, the remnants of extinct animals, an Internet site—and they offer up "alternate modes of knowing" to the traditional archive.
“A dig through archives of oddity to offer new ideas about how we pick, hoard, and sort through the hidden curiosities of popular culture and intellectual history alike.”
“It was a pleasure to read through this collection, and I suspect some of the essays, if not the entire book, will find itself on the syllabus for my Archive and Ephemera graduate course.”
— Museum Anthropology Review
“A finely wrought collection of curiosities, The Year's Work in the Oddball Archive presents a surprising and original contribution that stretches our understanding of what constitutes an archive and how to best make use of it. By playing with notions of collecting and cataloging, this anthology offers a range of investigations into detritus and forgotten ephemera, each of which resolutely resists straight-forward methodologies, remaining all the while serious and deeply engaged. A vital intervention into how we talk about the stuff that surrounds us.”
— Colin Dickey, co-editor of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology
“An unruly—and much-needed—model for how to do the archive differently.”
— Scott Herring, author of The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern American Culture
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Table of Contents
Box I: Saving America: Archival Proliferations. Includes:
1. Joseph Campana and Tedd Bale, "Pawning, Picking, Storing, Hoarding: Archiving America on Reality Television."
An examination of the massive reality television fixation on picking, storing, pawning, and hoarding.
2. Atia Sattar, "Germ Wars: Dirty Hands, Drinking Lips and Dixie Cups"
A discussion of germs, gender, and the Dixie Cup Archive.
3. Beth McCoy, "The Archive of the Archive of the Archive: The FEMA Signs of Post-Katrina New Orleans and the Vévé of Vodoun."
A comparison of Veve and FEMA markings in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Box II: Collective Figures. Includes:
4. Robin Blyn, "Marcuse's Unreason: The Biology of Revolution"
Rereading Marcuse’s odd positioning in the world of political philosophy.
5. Dennis Allen, "The Madness of Slavoj iek."
Ponders the ubiquity of Slavoj iek.
6. Jonathan P. Eburne, "Fish Kit."
A look at David Lynch’s extra-cinematic art of assemblage and dissection.
Box III: Untimely Archives. Includes:
7. Timothy Sweet, "The Eighteenth-Century Archives du Monde: The Question of Agency in Extinction Stories"
Considers Native American and Colonial theories for the extinction of dinosaurs.
8. Charles Tung, "Modernist Heterochrony, Evolutionary Biology, and the Chimera of Time."
How bodies, genes, and H.G. Wells play with heterochronies.
9. Aaron Jaffe, "THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER: Information at the Literary Limit."
What happens when the archive has too much and not enough.
Box IV: Archives Acting Out. Includes:
10. Judith Roof, "Personifying La Con, or Post-Hoax Ergo Proper Hoax"
Anatomizes hoaxes and their dependence on an archive.
11. Grant Aubrey Farred, "The Eleventh Commandment."
Being revolutionary with Thomas Paine and Saint Paul.
12. Seth Morton, "The Archive that Knew Too Little: The International Necronautical Society and the Avant-Garde."
Follow contributor Beth A. McCoy on Twitter