Call for Proposals: Race and Power in Library and Information Studies


The question of race and power in Anglo-Western library and information studies (LIS) has typically been framed as a problem of diversity and inclusion. Analyses tend to focus on the field’s homogenous racial demographics, whether in staffing, programming, collections, library education, or other areas. Anti-racist solutions focus, in turn, on achieving and sustaining racial heterogeneity in these areas, largely through increasing non-white representation (recruitment of workers, say, or purchase of “multicultural†books) and through attention to (inter)personal racial dynamics in library spaces (mentoring for non-white librarians, for example, or cultural competence training for staff working with a “diverse publicâ€).

Increasingly criticized for relying on the sorts of superficial, euphemistic approaches to race that characterize the corporate world, the field has arguably seen a more critical turn of late: race and racism have come to be named more directly, alongside the prominent use of concepts such as microaggressions, intersectionality, white privilege, and white fragility. While this introduction of a more explicit anti-racist lexicon has contributed a level of nuance to already important conversations in the field, it has brought little departure from the racial liberalism that has traditionally animated LIS discussions of race. The dominant racial politics of the field continues, in other words, to frame racism and anti-racism in terms of alignment with national demographics, as well as in terms of individual work on racial competence (whether personal or organizational). Racism and anti-racism — and indeed race itself — continue to be treated as fixed and ahistorical, to be divorced from fundamental political and economic arrangements, to be reduced to matters of racial conflict and harmony among individuals and communities.

The Journal of Radical Librarianship seeks proposals from scholars and practitioners that move beyond these logics of diversity and inclusion to a deeper structural critique of race and power in LIS. How does the library world reinforce the larger structures of racial subjugation that govern our lives (albeit differentially)? How does information collection, organization, and access play a fundamental role in larger racial projects? And how might it complicate these projects? What role have our field’s professional discourses and day-to-day practices (information literacy, for example, or intellectual freedom) played in reproducing and/or contesting the logics of white supremacy? How might we analyze library and information organizations in relation to the racial dynamics of the larger institutional contexts — the university, the city, the prison, the hospital, the military, the corporation, and so on — within which these organizations operate? What are the limits and possibilities of existing critical writing on race in LIS?

Rather than focusing solely on LIS, prospective authors should situate race and power in the field in relation to broader social and economic arrangements, whether through an account of capitalism, (settler) colonialism, nation building, heteropatriarchy, and the like — or the significant ways in which these arrangements intertwine. Furthermore, successful proposals will engage substantively and critically with existing writing on race (both inside and outside LIS), as well as offering a clearly defined account of the operations of race and power.

Proposals might explore aspects of the following topics (though this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Race, archives, and the (settler colonial) state
  • Information privacy/surveillance and race
  • Race and power in cataloging and classification
  • Libraries, race, and neoliberal higher education
  • Race and the material consequences of information technology (e-waste, mineral extraction, digital labour, gentrification)
  • Libraries, race, and material or popular culture (objects, aesthetics, spaces, and/or texts)
  • Race, documentation, and the carceral state (border policing, prison libraries, record keeping in migrant detention, etc.)
  • The anti-racist/anti-colonial politics of grassroots library/information projects
  • The information industry and racial capitalism
  • Critical race analyses of core practices: information literacy, collections, description, archives, copyright, metrics, technology, etc.
  • Critical race analyses of core values: intellectual freedom, (open) access, privacy, preservation, professionalism, etc.
  • Critical race analyses of professional issues: LIS education, deprofessionalization, governance, advocacy, leadership, etc.
  • Exploration of a given thinker/body of work to analysis of race in LIS

Proposals should include the following:

  • Tentative title
  • 500-1000 word abstract that includes the following:
    • A detailed summary of the proposed paper
    • An explanation of the ways in which the proposed paper aligns with this call
  • Brief author biography (50 words or fewer)

We’re happy to talk through ideas prior to submission, so feel free to contact us (see contact information below)!


Proposal due date: April 1st, 2018 (but we’re happy to receive them earlier!)

Notification of acceptance: Approximately one month after received

First draft due: Six months after acceptance


Follow the Chicago Manual of Style (17th Edition), using author-date format for citations. Proposals will be reviewed when received and manuscripts reviewed and published on a rolling basis. Please send questions and proposals to guest section editors:

David James Hudson, University of Guelph,

Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, California State University, San Bernardino