Orange Alert

Classification Researcher to Headline Syracuse Symposium Dec. 4-5

Western University's Melissa Adler will consider role of classification systems in academia

Nov. 27, 2017, by Robert M Enslin

Melissa Adler
Melissa Adler

Syracuse Symposium continues its yearlong look at “Belonging” with a visit by a leading expert in classification science.

On Monday, Dec. 4, Melissa Adler, assistant professor of information and media studies at Western University in London, Ontario, will discuss “Consequences of Classification: Systemic Violence against Marginalized Communities” from 5:15-6:30 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 114 Bird Library.

The following day, she will lead a small-group workshop on “Taxonomic Repair Work” from 9 a.m. to noon in room 304 of the Tolley Humanities Building.

Both events are free and open to the public; however, the latter requires registration. To RSVP, please contact Rachel Clarke, assistant professor in the School of Information Studies, at

Adler's visit will consider how systems of classification permeate almost every academic field.

“Drawing primarily on historical texts, she will explore some of the processes by which the marginalization of queer and racialized subjects become systemic,” says Clarke, who co-organized Adler’s visit with Patrick Williams, librarian for literature, rhetoric and digital humanities. "Her research concerns the history of library classifications, as they intersect with state and cultural discourses about race and sexuality."

While queer studies and critical race studies share similar histories of oppression, they are not alone. Williams says critical animal studies and disability studies usually fall into this category, too.

“All of these fields are deeply invested in the critique and production of taxonomies and language. Their subjects push the limits of classifications in unique and compelling ways,” he adds.

The author of “Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge” (Fordham University Press, 2017), Adler will follow her lecture with a workshop on how classification systems, from biological taxonomies to library organization systems, reflect the values of their creators and exert power in defining relationships of belonging.

"'Cruising the Library' examines the history of sexuality through the lens of Library of Congress classifications," Adler writes. "My next project, tentatively called 'Organizing Knowledge to Save the World,' is a feminist critique of knowledge organization systems that aspire to universality in reach, scope or design."

Organized and presented by the Humanities Center, Syracuse Symposium is a public humanities series that revolves around an annual theme. Programs include lectures, workshops, performances, exhibits, films and readings. Located in the Tolley Humanities Building, the Humanities Center serves the campus community by cultivating diverse forms of scholarship, sponsoring a broad range of programming and partnerships and addressing enduring questions and pressing social issues.

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Robert M Enslin