What is an affective archive? In Archives of Feeling, Ann Cvetkovich describes her attempt to “forge methodologies for the documentation and examination of the structures of affect that constitute cultural experience and serve as the foundation for public cultures” (11). Cvetkovich suggests an “archive of feeling” that would document the structures of feeling underlying American public cultures, such as the lesbian publics that primarily interest Cvetkovich. An affective archive, therefore, demands a recognition of cultural texts “as repositories of feelings and emotions, which are encoded not only in the content of the texts themselves but in the practices that surround their production and reception” (7).
Cvetkovich locates gay and lesbian emotional archives in both material and immaterial objects that may not normally be associated with official archives. This includes personal pictures, documentary films, public performances and festivals, and communal stories or memories. Cvetkovich claims that the archives of feeling are not necessarily found in fixed sites, but they are instead found “in the places, objects, and gestures of lesbian public cultures” (286). Archives of feeling are thus co-created in their recognition and unearthing. That is, encountering and engaging evidence of complex affects as they are located in the production and reception of culture texts is how an archive is created.