Collections, Archives and Libraries (Postponed to June 2022)

The 2021 ATTR Summer Seminar will explore the critical and interpretative significance of collections, archives, and libraries and provide multidisciplinary perspectives on the institutional, spatial, cognitive and gendered aspects of ensembles of texts.

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ATTR Summer School 2021 Postponed

Due to the current situation, the number of PhD participants for the Collections, Archives, and Libraries seminar is too low to go ahead with the event. In co-operation with the research group Books Known Only by Title, at the Centre for Advance Study (CAS), Oslo, we have therefore decided that the seminar will be postponed, and will instead be offered in June 2022.

The program may change slightly for the 2022 event, but we certainly will include the superb scholarship of the CAS group in next year’s event, and we will also benefit from the serious preparations with abstracts, reading lists, and programming made for this year’s event. ATTR members that applied for this year’s event will be guaranteed the right to take part in the 2022 event, if they wish to participate.

We are very sorry to issue this postponement. Questions may be directed to the ATTR Scientific Director, Terje Stordalen.


Academic conceptions of texts are deeply intertwined with notions of compilations, collections, archives and libraries. They provide storage space for literary and material objects but also serve as cognitive ordering structures.

They offer access to knowledge but they simultaneously regulate availability, impose plausibility structures and define borders. We sometimes take the collections of texts that order our fields for granted, but they are far from fixed and given.

What are the principles for organizing compilations of texts? What does it take for a collection of books to be called a library? Are texts retrieved from the same find spot necessarily one archive? How do memories of libraries—real or imagined—shape academic knowledge?

The seminar is in cooperation with the Centre for Advanced Study project Books Known Only by Title: Exploring the Gendered Structures of the First Millennium Imagined Library (CAS 2020/2021).

How to participate

A prerequisite for participation in all ATTR seminars is membership. We welcome membership applications from PhD candidates employed at one of the ATTR member institutions (UiO, UiB, UiT, NTNU, MF). PhD students at other institutions internationally are welcome to participate in individual ATTR seminars. 


How to apply and application requirements



(Subject to changes)

Practical information

 A seminar for PhD students within the fields of Humanities, Theology, and Law.

  • Registration opens March 23rd 2021 and closes on April 18th.
  • The seminar will take place at the Scandic Skøyen and Centre for Advanced Study 
  • The seminar equals 5 ECTS
  • The seminar is free of charge and most of your expenses (flight tickets, hotel, most meals) will be covered
  • Registration is binding, provided that you are admitted. 
  • Before the application deadline, make sure that you have uploaded all necessary attachments. Please see our overview of application and participation requirements for further information.

Research seminars

Blossom Stefaniw (MF/CAS)
Know Better: Archives, Race and Gender in History

Archives as sites of knowledge production are always involved with race and gender, because western theories of knowledge operate on the assumption that the knower is superior to and in control of both what is known and those who do not know, treating knowledge as the possession of the knower. This lecture examines how archival discourses require and re-inscribe gendered and racialized scenes of penetration, objectification, possession and extraction. I ask how scholarly imagination can be expanded beyond notions of knowledge acquisition which are driven by patriarchy and white supremacy. What has shifted and what can be shifted further when we consider women and people of colour as scholars? How do we make space for racialized and feminized scholars to engage with archives without simply impersonating white supremacist and patriarchal scholarly subjectivities? How do we navigate an academic world in which racism and sexism are at the root of entire disciplines?

Mary Jane Cuyler (MF)
Excavating Archives: Accessing & Evaluating Archaeological Materials

The process of archaeological excavation produces vast amounts of data (artifacts, notes, drawings, photographs, and more), much of which is left unpublished by excavators. Such archival material holds enormous research potential for the modern scholar. Yet accessing this type of material can be difficult and even daunting. Preparation is key. Using case studies from recent research carried out in and around Rome, this lecture explores some of the practical considerations of this exciting research area. 

Francis Borchardt (NLA / CAS)
Fictional Reality and the Materialization of Libraries of Antiquity

We frequently encounter libraries as physical spaces filled with material media with which we can and do interact. Our municipal and university libraries come to mind as contemporary examples. But this is just one of the ways in which libraries occupy our lives. In the digital world, libraries can also be hybrid spaces that contain materials for us to access, but only have a passing resemblance to physical location. They exist within “sites” that we “visit” where we can select media from a “shelf” or “collection” to download and stream, but those fixed spatial metaphors conceal the presence of these libraries wherever there is a device and an internet connection. Databases like JSTOR, Ebrary, or even Netflix and Disney+ are fine examples of this phenomenon. There are also ways in which libraries exist primarily as fictions. They are realized in our stories about the knowledge they contain, their connection to founders, and the activities that we imagine to be going on there, but they need not be accompanied by physical media, historical founders, or fixed location. In some sense, these libraries are always on the move. Their contents are never quite accessible and the knowledge that they possess changes. Nevertheless, they are real and remain entities of continuous fascination. By working with a framework developed by Bruno Latour, this lecture will show how two ancient libraries persisted as fictions. The presentation will make the case that the Book of Enoch and the Sibylline Oracles were both sustained by the ancient imagination about their founding, the fate of their contents, and their power over the audience. It will then argue that these fictions drove the materialization of these libraries in physical form at various point in antiquity and the modern world.

Ina Blom (UiO)

Memory in Motion: Archives, Technology, and the Social

If, as, Émile Durkheim once stated, society is memory, rethinking social memory ultimately entails rethinking sociality as such. So how do the new technologies of memory impact the very conceptualization or “modeling” of the social? Digital networks seem to privilege the notion of a living, operative memory over a memory of storage and safekeeping, transforming archives in ways that may profoundly impact how we understand social memory. While we tend to frame these changes in terms of crisis and loss, we may, alternatively, use them as pointers towards new modes of understanding “sharing”, “transfer”, “influence” and “contact” – in short, the vectors of collectivity and its forms of duration. This requires a mode of investigation that approaches social relations in emphatically temporal terms, and that takes seriously the material specificity of the various technologies that shape contemporary memory.

Esther Brownsmith (MF/CAS)
Absences in the Archive: Marginalized Voices (Workshop)

The archival turn leads to scrutinizing the archive for its weaknesses and absences. In this workshop, participants will gain a greater awareness of various marginalized groups and how their voices can be silenced by archives. Participants will practice skills to counter the archive’s selective sampling, whether they approach the problem as archivists working to include many voices, or as scholars seeking out the voices that were excluded. Along the way, participants will wrestle with some of the difficult questions around archival absence: what can scholars do about past voices that cannot be retrieved? How can archivists preserve marginalized voices without subjecting those voices to invasive exposure? In what ways does intersectionality affect the quest for inclusion? And, last but not least, how do archival absences impact all our research, whether or not we specialize in marginalized groups?

This workshop features and interview session with Johanne Ostad (The National Library of Norway) on strategies for archiving materials of marginalized groups.

Jon Christian Nordrum (UiO)
On Norwegian legal documents and collections

Abstract to be provided

PhD Seminars

Please see our new seminar guide, revised spring 2021, for more information on the PhD Seminars.

Central to all ATTR seminars and summer schools are the PhD fellows’ own presentations of papers based on their dissertation work, with prepared responses by other PhD fellows. 

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of ATTR, the focus of the discussions will be primarily on methodological matters and interdisciplinary insights.

The PhD seminars are important means to the ATTR learning goals:

  • Writing and presentation skills: The seminars aim not only at providing a setting for constructive discussions relating to thesis work, but also at preparing the candidates for life after their dissertations. ATTR thus aims to hone students’ presentation and writing skills, skills that may be useful for development of research projects for which funding can be sought from, e.g., ERC and RCN.
  • Methodology: The objective of ATTR is to create a venue where interpretive methodologies can be critically discussed, evaluated, and developed, so as to broaden the candidates’ perspectives and heighten the quality of their analyses.
  • Networking: In all its activities, the creation of an interdisciplinary network of young scholars in order to ensure the highest possible academic quality of PhD education is a central goal of ATTR.



Please contact the ATTR Administrative coordinator / Christin-Helen Vasvik.


Published June 18, 2020 8:12 AM - Last modified June 28, 2022 2:01 PM