Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Materiality
Secondary Theme: The Political
History has haunted ethnography since its inception. Does the weight of history outweigh the plasticity of people and power? How do the historical and the unhistorical combine in the refiguring of social life and futurity? Insurgent Archives takes on these classic, unfinished debates. We draw from and build on the work of scholars who have recently troubled commonsensical understandings of the archive as a written and solid past, opening up creative pathways for the ethnography of archives and archiving. Papers in this session explore how anthropology might: 1) better apprehend the political stakes of decolonizing archives in times of renewed ‘historical fever’; 2) incorporate dissenting archives into our histories of the present and recuperate ideas of a forgotten otherwise; 3) develop better conceptual tools for analyzing embodied archives of the accidental, the sentient, and the unwritten.
Collectively, panelists consider the emplotment of apparently disjointed historical narratives and the various ways in which history enfolds itself into genetic material, nerve endings, photographic objects, and ephemeral moments and epiphanies that turn forgotten stories into infrastructures for visions of a future. Our ethnographies of archives and archiving in Egypt, Brazil, Palestine, Belize, Japan, and the United States are intimately linked to a variety of world-making projects and attuned to ways of knowing that escape the bounds of established theory. We are drawn to individual and activist efforts to record the textures of ordinary lives in punitive political economies coming undone and to mark surprising registers of human and nonhuman conviviality in endangered landscapes. What possibilities—intellectual, relational, or political—do these efforts, sensations and ‘traces-of-what-does-not-know’ illuminate and make available for anthropologists and their interlocutors? Overall, the session explores the agency of affective, insurgent archives to transform our stories of what happened and attends to their ability to help nurture alternative futures that people mark out every day.