The readily available notion of an archive is that of an accumulation of two-dimensional records evidencing the past. In this course, we will revisit and go beyond this narrow definition and grapple with the diverse range of archives, often multimodal in their complexity. We consider different archives that use a variety of media and memory objects, including material to digital examples and the in-betweens. Along the following lines, we will also ask to what extent archives not only capture memory but also shape futures:
“In an enigmatic sense, … the question of the archive is not … a question of the past. … It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come.”(Derrida 1996, 36)
As a site of selective public or private memory, a collection of evidence in material and immaterial form shaped by various power dynamics, and a metaphor for holding data, the archive is central to the mediated production and understanding of archival bodies and archiving agents - in this course, we focus on the body proper and the city.
Furthermore, we will be concerned with the “data carrier” and questions of format, temporality, materiality, technological possibilities, and accessibility, as much as with cultural practices of memorizing and forgetting, categorization, valuation and visibility.
Examples and literature support our discussion on how archival bodies at different scale are “made” and which lines can be drawn between practices of intersectional discrimination, objectification, control, contest, movement, reflection, redefinition, etc. At the same time, we will unpack the power of the archive and its emancipatory capacities.
Four aspects of the archive will become important for us:
_the archive as artefact that holds particular knowledges and memories in the context of power (to decide and to produce what gets included) and valuation (what is worth including according to the archivists’ knowledge, skills and ideology); various media and formats
_the archive as inscribed onto human and non-human actors, specifically, the body and the city as archives with inscribed/imposed information
_ the archive as actor itself: the body and city as archival instruments (sensory, cultural, social etc experiences and practices), and storages of data.
As actors, archives are also witnesses, equipped with transformative powers toward shaping the future. Which brings us to the last, but crucial point:
_the larger temporal and spatial networks in which archives operate
Archives have various - at times contradictory - purposes and a corresponding multitude of archivists and their respective intentions for the archive and its impact. Governmental and institutional archives hold a particular power over the narration of history, however, social movements, civil society organizations, and various activist groups have created a range of alternative collections, often using oral histories or sound archives. As much as archives preserve what is to be remembered individually and/or collectively, they also render certain knowledges – intentionally or not – to be forgotten. We will critically consider the silences as much as the imposed inscriptions, and begin to craft new, reflected narratives with the future impact of archives in mind.
Through different texts, assignments and archive visits in the first half of the semester, we will engage with:
_Archives and archival techniques and processes
_Bodies as archival instruments to record and store information and train skills. The archive can be interpreted in various ways, through ascribed identity markers and performances of the Self in normative and nonconformist ways.
_Cities as physical spaces where power structures become visible, but also as ambiguous actors that enable both intersectional dynamics as well as emancipatory practices. For a range of processes such as transformation, (post)migration, memorization, cities become archives in context with performative acts of diverse bodies and as „urban bodies.“
As we continue our debates into the second half of the semester, we will be concerned with the crafting of alternative archives that pose questions for a more diverse, common future. One of the questions we will ask ourselves will be: What is the emancipatory potential of multimodal memory objects and which questions and issues (pertaining to the body and city) can be made evident by crafting them into an archive?
Active teaching and learning as part of a feminist pedagogical approach: At the beginning of the course, I will introduce the “archive kit” as a multimodal instrument to begin crafting an own archive and narratives. The materials included in each participants’ kit can (and should) be expanded, changed, reinterpreted over the course of the semester. In context with the literature and assignments we will engage different urban ethnographic methods (collaborative and individual research) and build archives.
Three main assignments will be developed along the course:
_an image-based engagement; the body around questions of control and subversion
_a short oral history visual or sound clip to be included in the current exhibition on memory at the Museum of Cultures Basel (low threshold, can be done with the smart phone)
_a final assignment: over the course of the semester, each student builds an archive in relation to an urban question they pose around mid-term (can be built on interests that come out of the first two). Students situate the respective archive within the literature and research over the semester (short text).
To make the efforts of the class visible and knowledges produced more widely accessible, the student archives will become part of an exhibition (in actual space the university if possible, otherwise the archives will be curated as a digitized version).
This seminar encourages students to conceptualize research as the production of new archives, produced in collaboration with a range of actors and knowledges. Furthermore, the course explores how contemporary cultural and urban transformations, shaped by material and digital cultures, invite alternate ways of research and how they underpin our central focus on evaluating knowledge production. The exploration of innovative case studies will help students to expand their imagination of embodied and urban archives. Students will learn to combine creative and critical approaches media and knowledge production. In addition to interrogating conventional methods of scholarship, they will gain practical skills and techniques to prepare them for individual research projects in their respective fields.
- an ability to critically reflect on different forms of archives and begin to craft new narratives
- develop and assemble materials as part of a research project while reflecting on epistemological questions
- a conceptual understanding of the relationship between media, memory, and the production of bodies and cities, and how this implicates our everyday
- an ability to analyze how knowledges are produced through the archive and practices of recording, collecting, and curating, and how this shapes social, cultural, and political hierarchies and forms of spatial inequalities in the context of intersectional discrimination
- an ability to build an own archive throughout the course based on critical research
Literature Tentative List (to be continued):
David Zeitlyn: Anthropology in and of the Archives
Kate Eichhorn: Archival Genres
Bodies (selections from the following publications)
Lock, Margaret, Judith Farquhar. 2007. Beyond the body proper: Reading the anthropology of material life. Duke University Press.
Foucault, Michel. Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France
Foucault, Michel. “Docile Bodies,” “Panopticism,” in The Foucault Reader.
Karen Shimakawa, “Introduction” to National Abjection
Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times.
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of Identity
Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professing Selves
Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”
Cities (selections from the following publications)
Linda McDowell "In and Out of Place: Bodies and Embodiment"
Elizabeth Grosz "Bodies-Cities" in Beatriz Colomina: Sexuality and Space
Bell, Valentine: Mapping Desire
Setha Low: Theorizing the City: Ethnicity, Gender, and Globalization
Rao, Viyjayanthi: Embracing Urbanism: The City as Archive
José Esteban Muñoz, “Ephemera as Evidence” from Women & Performance
Gayatri Gopinath, “Archive, Affect, and the Everyday: Queer Diasporic Re-Visions” from Political Emotions
Diana Taylor, “Acts of Transfer” from Archive and the Repertoire
Gender Studies, Kulturanthropologie, Soziologie