Reparative Redaction, presented by Dr. Shannon Mattern

Abstract: The black bar, the bleep, the cutout — the accouterments of redaction — have long inspired poets and artists. Yet the Global War on Terrorism and its various intelligence leaks, followed by the Trump regime, with its distinctive approach to records management, incited a recent wave of erasure poetry and deletionist conceptual art that focuses on state secrecy and redaction’s nefarious applications. As archivists know well, though, redaction can also be an act of care. In this talk, we’ll examine the work of censors, archivists, and myriad artists — particularly those working in decolonial and Black feminist traditions — to consider redaction as a capacious practice with diverse applications. By acknowledging the myriad media through which, and the various contexts and scales at which, it can operate, we can better understand how redaction functions a material technique, an aesthetic treatment, and an epistemological method that can serve various ethical and political ends – even as a means of preservation and an act of repair. 

Bio: Shannon Mattern is the Penn Presidential Compact Professor of Media Studies and the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with CommunitiesDeep Mapping the Media CityCode and Clay, Data and Dirt: 5000 Years of Urban Media, all published by University of Minnesota Press; and A City Is Not a Computer, published by Princeton University Press. She also contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places Journal. In addition, she serves as president of the board of the Metropolitan New York Library Council and regularly collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at


1 p.m. March 24, 2023