Politics of archives and struggles for emancipation: Reflecting on experiences from Middle East and Southern Africa
The next Session has been postponed to a later date. We will communicate the new dates as soon as they are fixed.
This seminar series aims at approaching Southern Africa and Middle Eastern experiences in archives building, oral history and public history in relation to emancipatory politics. Scholars and activists of both regions, like their counterparts in societies that have experienced protracted periods of oppression, violence and historical erasure, have for many years elaborated ideas and practices to recover, interpret and disseminate histories on their own terms. Cognisant of the colonial ordering and blind spots of official archives, they turned from the 1970s onward to alternative archiving and oral history to produce new and counter-hegemonic narratives. These practices were conceived as a way to shed light on people (indigenous populations, oppressed minorities, women, refugees, underprivileged groups) who were marginalized or absent from the hegemonic narrative while providing them with tools for self-emancipation. More contemporary struggles or social movements (such as Marikana, Fees must Fall or the Arab Spring) also has showed the continued emancipatory potential of archiving practices and public history.
This seminar series aims at reflecting on the practices and issues at stake in these various experiences in both regions. To that end, several sets of questions may be raised:
- How archives have become sites of contention between state and non-state actors? What is the role of archive production and public history in the face off between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic narratives? How have moments of struggle also been decisive in moulding and transforming the very idea of archive?
- Which uses of archive and public history helped empowering local communities and giving voice to dispossessed populations? Which archiving actors and institutions have played a role in these emancipatory experiences? How collections kept in the Global North can be reclaimed or made use of by actors in the Global South?
- From a more practical perspective, how do we conceive archiving practices that fit with emancipatory goals? What ethical protocols should the researchers follow in collecting archives and oral testimonies? How to deal with the questions of funding and ownership in designing emancipatory archiving practices? To what kind of archival institutions can researchers turn in order to keep collections while preserving their autonomy and ensuring open access and use? In oppressive contexts, are there safe havens for archival documentation? How technological choices such as those related to digitization or dissemination platforms, far from being neutral, are impacting archiving politics?
- What are the archival afterlives of emancipatory politics? How do we deal with moments of despair? Also, how to keep records in times of uncertainty, displacement or exile? How and why to preserve all archives despite reluctancy from liberation movements or other political actors involved in past struggles?
Each seminar session will take place in situ at one of the different partner institutions, in Johannesburg, Beirut, Birzeit and Brussels, and online. Five sessions are planned between November 2022 and February 2023. Each session will focus on a particular theme and will feature a speaker from the Middle East and a speaker from Southern Africa as well as a moderator.
Organizers: Institut francais du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) – Wits History Workshop – Birzeit University – OMAM (Université libre de Bruxelles, ULB) – Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) – IFAS Research
“Oral history in past and present struggles”
Third session co-organized by Birzeit University and Wits History Workshop
This Session has been postponed to a later date. We will communicate the new dates as soon as they are fixed.
13h-15h (Johannesburg time), 14h-16h (Beirut time)
Zoom link :
“From Testimony to Story-telling: Transformation in Research on the Past of Palestine » by Rana Barakat.
Rana Barakat is an associate professor in the department of history at Birzeit University and is the director of BZU Museum in Palestine. Her research interests include the history and historiography of colonialism, nationalism, and cultures of resistance. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Chicago and has since published in several venues including the Journal of Palestine Studies, Jerusalem Quarterly, Settler Colonial Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. She has a forthcoming book titled, « Lifta and Resisting the Museumification of Palestine: Indigenous History of the Nakba » (contracted with UNC Press), which advances an indigenous understanding of time, space, and memory in Palestine by focusing on the details of the people and place of Lifta village over time.
“Oral History with Women Activists in South Africa” by Sarah Bruchhausen, Tshepiso Maleswena, Noor Nieftagodien
Sarah Bruchhausen is a PhD student with the History Workshop. Her research interests include the history and politics of rural resistance in South Africa with a focus on questions of land, the commons, democracy and universal theorisations of emancipatory politics. Her recent publications have centred on the historical and political conjunctures between the Marikana moment of 2012 and the Mpondo revolts of 1957-1961. Her PhD research is explicitly concerned with the relationship between ‘the everyday’ and emancipatory politics within the historical context of ordinary women’s struggles for freedom in the former Lebowa bantustan.
Tshepiso Maleswena is a PhD candidate in the History department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Her doctoral study focuses on Black women and memory and memorialisation within the context of South African history. Her other research interests extend to students’ social experiences at tertiary institutions, decolonisation of the university curriculum, and nuanced approaches to course design and assessment practices. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Studies from University of the Witwatersrand, a degree in Corporate Communication from the University of Johannesburg and a Post Graduate Diploma in Higher Education from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Noor Nieftagodien holds the Chair in Local Histories, Present Realities at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), where he is also the director of the History Workshop. His interests center on aspects of popular insurgent struggles, public history, youth politics, and local history. He is currently investigating the history of the Congress of South African Students, the leading student organisation in the struggle against apartheid and heads the public history initiative, the Soweto History and Archives Project. Among his publications are: The Soweto Uprising; Alexandra – A History & Ekurhuleni – The Making of an Urban Region (co-authored with Phil Bonner); One Hundred Years of the ANC & Struggles in Southern Africa: New Perspectives on the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, 1919-1949 (co-editor).
Documenting struggles in progress
Friday, November 11th, 2022 at 2pm (Beirut and South Africa), 7am (Eastern Coast)
Ifpo’s conference room (Beirut) and online
If you want to attend the conference at Ifpo, please, send us an email : email@example.com
Documenting the Egyptian Revolution of 25 January 2011
Khaled Fahmy FBA is Professor of North Africa and the Middle East at Tufts University. His research interests lie in the social and cultural history of modern Egypt and his publications include a book on the social history of the Egyptian army in the first half of the 19th century (All the Pasha’s Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army and the Making of Modern Egypt—Cambridge University Press, 1997), a biography on Mehmed Ali (Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt—Oneworld Publications, 2008), and, more recently, an award-winning book on the intersection of law and medicine in 19th century Egypt (In Quest of Justice: Islamic Law and Forensic Medicine in Modern Egypt—University of California Press, 2018). Since the outbreak of the January 2011 Revolution, he has been a regular contributor to Egyptian and international media.
Dale T. McKinley
A ‘full panorama’ movement archive: South Africa’s Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF)
Dale T. McKinley is an independent writer, researcher and lecturer and presently, research and education officer at the International Labour, Research and Information Group based in Johannesburg. He holds a PhD. in International Political Economy/African Studies and is a long-time political activist who has been involved in social movement, community and liberation organisations and struggles for over three decades. The author of four books, Dale has written and researched widely on various aspects of South African and international political, social and economic issues and struggles, and is a regular public speaker as well as contributor and commentator in the media.
Session coordinated and moderated by Chaymaa Hassabo (member of ERC Live-AR – Ceped (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)) and Noor Nieftagodein (head of the History Workshop – Wits University)
Partner institutions: Ifpo, Wits History Workshop, IPS, ULB, Birzeit University, Ifas-Research
Film archives after liberation
with Jihan El Tahri & Sifiso Khanyile
Monday 27 February 2023, 4pm to 6pm (CET)
The board of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board recently ruled that Ousmane Sembène’s seminal 1966 film Black Girl contained hate speech and was not fit for screening during the Joburg Film Festival. A similar incident took place during the fifteen edition of Documenta when an Expert Panel determined that an installation featuring militant films of the Palestinian revolution (1960-80s) was antisemitic because Israel was portrayed in a one-sided negative way. These acts of censorship raise fundamental questions about the politics surrounding film archives. Indeed, what is it about film archives that is so confronting and threatening in the aftermath of formal colonialism and liberation? How do film archives as memory fragments and traces of history contribute to reproduce or unsettle pasts but also to reimagine alternative futures? And what are the challenges of working with film archives in the current political moment, particularly concerning access, indexing, copy rights, circulation, visibility, infrastructure, and so on? These and other questions will be central to our next seminar on the ‘Politics of archives and struggles for emancipation: Reflecting on experiences from Middle East and Southern Africa’.
Jihan El Tahri is a multi-award-winning film director, writer, visual artist, and producer. She currently serves as the General Director of the Berlin-based documentary support institution DOX BOX. El Tahri has been a member of The Academy (Oscars) since 2017 and is currently on the selection committee of the Locarno International Film Festival. She has directed more than 15 films and her visual art exhibitions have traveled to renowned museums and several Biennales around the world. Her writings include Les Sept Vies de Yasser Arafat (Grasset) and Israel and the Arabs, The 50 Years War (Penguin). She continues to mentor and direct various documentary and filmmaking labs. El Tahri has served on the boards of several African film organizations including the Federation of Pan African Cinema and The Guild of African Filmmakers in the Diaspora.
Sifiso Khanyile is a Johannesburg based multi award winning filmmaker and archive researcher. He’s also a member of the International Emmys. Khanyile has produced 9 films, writing and directing 4 of those including 3 award winning documentaries ‘Uprize’, ‘A New Country’, and ‘The Reclaimers’. With 13 years experience in film, television and news production. His work is concerned with memory and history and how they continue to shape contemporary imaginations of South Africa. His recently completed short-film adaptation of Njabulo Ndebele’s ‘The Prophetess’ expands his vocabulary into the South African literary archive, having worked with audio and video archives in the past. His ongoing project, ‘Black Joy Under Apartheid’, foregrounds black leisure and pleasure under apartheid to offer counter-hegemonic narratives to black victimhood. Khanyile has also made music videos for Impande Core, Tumi (Stogie T) as well as Thabang Tabane. As an archive researcher, Khanyile has presented at archive symposiums such as the Visionary Archives Festival at the Arsenal in Berlin (2015). He is currently writing his debut narrative feature ‘Problematik’, which was developed as part of Venice Biennale Cinema College 2021 -2022, and Venice Gap Financing Market.