Like queerness, archives are all around us. Archives are merely networks intended to bear witness to experience: to learn (absorb new knowledge) and to teach (make this knowledge accessible to others). Traditional archives—i.e. those physical or digital collections that seek to document and organise material traces for posterity—are typically limited by the simple fact that certain kinds of traces and certain kinds of experiences are more likely to survive or be legible than others. Even within community archives there are gaps, blurs and misrepresentations. In answer, the drive to generate new kinds of data, measurement, expression and legibility is common within queer and BAME practices and worlds (Cvetkovich; Ahmed; Hunter & Robinson). Marginalisation necessitates resourcefulness. Rather than striving to assimilate queer experience into official or institutional archives—to make it legible—we must “queer, and thus expand the notion of” archives themselves.
The city is a living archive. While it is important to build queer spaces—MATRIX built the Pluto Lesbian & Gay Housing Co-operative in Islington, London, in 1987-88—and to document their life cycle, queer survival starts with growing networks of mutual aid and care within and across spaces that were not built for us. Public toilets, street lamps, bare walls, public parks, abandoned buildings, basements, a friend’s house, changing rooms; these are just some of the spaces used by queers to survive. The informal learning and teaching that takes place through these sites—through a furtive first kiss, an ad for language lessons, a poster for a local meet-up, house-shares, clothes-shares, skill-shares—is made possible by learning to read and piece-together traces in our environment as we would in any other archive. Public toilets in Berlin, for instance, act as an informal living archive for local queer, creative and immigrant communities. The layering of posters, call-outs, ads, stickers, event flyers and scrawled messages is an unconscious subversion of the purity ideals of white bathrooms, ideals that when they are invoked “mobilise this genealogy of racialised associations”. If you are looking for a certain service or opportunity, you know to check the bathrooms for notices or messages. This is one example of the ways in which space is used in a queer way—queered—for the purpose of sharing information, skills and services. While these informal networks differ from traditional archives in a handful of ways, they share a core intention: to collect, make accessible, and exchange information for the purpose of learning and teaching. Learning to read these informal practices as one would an archive, we can begin to understand how the model of the traditional archive can be rethought from the margins. The status and respect commanded by the stern, sterile, institutional buildings and websites of many archives is a product of this same genealogy of racialised associations. Ultimately, the purity ideals of institutional archives gatekeeps invaluable knowledge by making these spaces feel unwelcoming and unattainable to anyone outside the bounds of normalcy. As users, organisers and creators of archives, we share a responsibility to learn from the collective subversion of purity ideals and the commitment to the exchange of knowledge demonstrated by these informal queer networks, these living archives. From them we can reimagine archives as reciprocal networks that not only store knowledge and materials that we give, but from which we can take and exchange resources too.
 Anne Cvetkovich (2003) An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality and Lesbian Public Culture, Durham, NC: Duke University Press
 “We need to become each other’s resources”. Sara Ahmed (2019) “Complaint as Queer Method.” Keynote lecture, The Queer Art of Feeling from Cambridge University, Cambridge, May 3
 Marcus Anthony Hunter & Zandria Robinson (2019) “Measurement, Interrupted: Queer Possibilities for Social Scientific Methods.” Imagining Queer Methods, eds Amin Ghaziani and Matt Brim. New York: New York University Press
 Note that within survival I include comfort, pleasure, hope and vision.
 Dana Berthold (2010), “Tidy Whitness: A Genealogy of Race, Purity and Hygiene”, Ethics and the Environment, 10:1, pp.1-26. Berthold goes on to say that “as inheritors of this racist culture, we are all lovers of purity, and we are all responsible for rethinking its value”.
This post was written by Ged Ribas Goody, also called Alio Ribas, a writer and transdisciplinary researcher. www.othernessarchive.com