The School of Information Studies and the Humanities Center will welcome Melissa Adler, Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario, for a talk and workshop exploring the consequences of classification.

Systems of classification exist across every field, from biological taxonomies to library shelves. These systems reflect the values of their creators and exert power in defining relationships of belonging. Using classifications as primary historical texts and conceptualizing them as systems that organize state and cultural discourses, Adler will discuss some of the processes by which the marginalization of queer and racialized subjects becomes systemic, and ways that critical analysis reveals possibilities for organizing otherwise.

Interdisciplinary fields, such as critical animal studies, disability studies, queer studies, and critical race studies are deeply invested in the critique and production of taxonomies and language, and while they share similar histories of oppression, their subjects push the limits of classifications in unique and compelling ways.

“As creators and users of classification systems, taxonomies, and controlled vocabularies, librarians and information professionals need to be aware of the potential power of these tools,” said iSchool Assistant Professor Rachel Clarke, who has organized Adler’s visit to Syracuse. “Adler’s work reveals instances of marginalization that we need need to understand and be aware of when working with these systems, be they book classification in libraries or social media algorithms.” 

Adler teaches in Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies, where her research interests include classification, gender and sexuality, and LGBTQ library and information services. Her recent book, “Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge” offers a highly innovative analysis of the history of sexuality and categories of sexual perversion through a critical examination of the Library of Congress’ cataloging practices.

Part of the Syracuse Symposium speaker series, Adler’s talk, “Consequences of Classification: Systemic Violence Against Marginalized Communities,” will be held on Monday, December 4 at 5:15 PM in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons in Bird Library.

A workshop focusing on taxonomic repair work will be held the next day, on Tuesday, December 5 from 9:00 AM to Noon in room 304 of the Tolley Building. To attend the workshop, please RSVP to Rachel Clarke at