Impressions of the second week of the Transregional Academy “Fragment – Power – Public: Narrative, Authority and Circulation in Archival Work”

In its second week, the Transregional Academy “Fragment – Power – Public: Narrative, Authority and Circulation in Archival Work” continued with interesting presentations, film screenings, a mapathon and more inspiring discussions for example on “The Archives of Decolonization in the Middle East” and “Reading Benjamin’s Thesis on History”, as well as public lectures and panel discussions attracting a wider audience and a workshop on “Family as Historian: Popular Archival Practices and the Documentation of Intimate Struggles”.

The week started with a lecture by EUME Fellow Yektan Türkyilmaz on “Armenians on Records: Music Production from Homeland to Diasporas” exploring the cultural, political and identitarian implications of the history of recording technology for Armenian communities by going back to the Ottoman Empire and following the routes into the various Armenian diasporas.

On Tuesday, it was followed by a double lecture of the historian Pascale Ghazaleh (American University in Cairo / EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2017-19) and the political scientist Alia Mossallam (EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2017-20), both members of the steering group of the Academy. Pascale Ghazaleh addressed the questions of “How Can We Speak of Defeat?” with regards to the 1967 war and how can its history be written in a situation when the archives of the Egyptian state and military are not accessible to researchers or a wider public. Alia Mossallam talked about the importance of family archives and oral history narratives for writing the history of the Nubians and their relationship to the Nile and the impact of the building of the Aswan High Dam to it. She raised the question of how these archival practices can be incorporated into scholarly research without disregarding the Nubian communities’ specific views on their own history, but instead giving credit to their specific modes of expression in their archival practices.

On Wednesday, part of the group of participants contributed to the Palestine Open Maps project in a mapathon led by Majd al-Shihabi (AUB) and supported by Hana Sleiman (University of Cambridge), while part of the group attended the screening of Mohammad Shawky Hassan’s (filmmaker and video artist) films followed by a discussion.

On the same day, EUME Fellows Rasha Chatta and Lamia Moghnieh, both members of the steering group of the Academy, invited four activists, artists and researchers involved in archival practices to a conversation on “The Politics of Archiving in Lebanon”: the head of AUB’s Arab Comics Initiative Lina Ghaibeh (animation and comics artist / Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture and Design at AUB), Deema Kaedbey, co-founder of the Knowledge Workshop, a feminist organization in Beirut, and co-editor of the feminist online platform Sawt al-Niswa, the artist Jessika Khazrik and the archivist Hana Sleiman (currently a PhD student of History at the University of Cambridge). Questions on how to access, use, create, preserve and make available archives and how to navigate different archival spheres ranging from state and university archives to private collections were raised. The panelists also focused on the importance of telling stories hidden in or even absent from the archives, or at least from certain kinds of archives, of the necessity of reflecting diversity in archival practices and of the dissemination of archival knowledge into wider publics and discussed proper approaches.

On the last day of the Academy the questions and theses that came up or were raised during the previous days were wrapped up in a final discussion that also addressed the role of the present in the archive(s). The self-reflective question was raised whether resorting to archives can be seen as a way to escape the present, especially when looking at the most recent political and social developments in many countries in the region.    


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