Q. Withdrawing Pasts and the Trauma of Materials, the Image and the Archive

Organizers: Uzma Rizvi, Pratt Institute and Lindsay Moira Weiss

Sunday, May 8th
9:20 – 12:30
Chevron Auditorium

Abstract:

How can we document violence? Violence resists documentation, effecting both the study of past events and contemporary moments of war, disaster and poverty. Archaeologists struggle to study the images, archives, and materials of past and ongoing trauma as the material record withdraws, obfuscating information about the past, present and the future (Toufic 2009).    Such vectors of violence are not only relegated to the spheres of war, but are intimately interwoven within colonial discourses about the subaltern in which the translation of the purity of otherness is not a matter external to the culture, rather quite internal. This relationship between war and colonial epistemologies reveals itself in contemporary imperial impulses when very specific visions of culture (loosely put) refuse the organic pluralism internal to itself.  Such a vision claims finality for itself in “some avatar of an end of history [so] that a struggle for cultural rights and the necessity to protect “our way of life” turns into violence and oppression.” (Das 2002)    The history of our discipline is intimately linked to such discourses of violence and oppression. Using the same tools (archaeological methodology) to dismantle, contextualize and understand those relics, we invite contributors to excavate our own historiographies and to investigate the violence of representational forms, such as maps, photographs, architecture, and the archive.

Bibliography:  Das, V. 2002. ‘Violence and Translation,’ in a Special Issue on War and Terror in Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 75, no.1.  Toufic, J. 2009. The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster. Forthcoming Books.

Papers:

Withdrawing Pasts and the Trauma of Materials, the Image and the Archive: Introductory Dialog

Uzma Rizvi, Pratt Institute, urizvi@pratt.edu & Lindsay Weiss, Stanford University

As organizers, we have decided to begin a dialog: How can we document violence? Violence resists documentation, affecting both the study of past events and contemporary moments of war, disaster and poverty. Such vectors of violence are not relegated to war, but are intimately interwoven within colonial discourses about the subaltern in which the translation of the purity of otherness is not a matter external to the culture, but rather is quite internal. This relationship between war and colonial epistemologies reveals itself in contemporary imperial impulses when very specific visions of culture (loosely put) refuse the organic pluralism internal to itself.

Suppressing Ancient Insurgencies–An Archaeological Coverup

Sandra Scham, Center for International Development and Conflict Mitigation, sandrascham@gmail.com

Near Eastern Archaeologists have acknowledged for years that the long-term effects of peoples who fought against the dominant powers of their time are understudied.  Nonetheless, they are quick to enfold the architectural remains of possible insurgents within the embrace of empire through adherence to outdated core and periphery models. Through an examination of several “imperial margin” sites this paper will demonstrate how we have consistently failed to recognize the signs of resistance in the archaeological landscape and, instead, continue to support the “succession of empires” paradigm that is still the predominant taxonomic model in the field.            

Of Representation, Revolution and Routes: Archival and Architectural Responses to the Violent Landscapes of Apartheid

Lindsay Weiss, Stanford University, linzyka@stanford.edu

This paper examines the complex relationship between the story of revolution and heritage in South Africa.  South Africa’s National Liberation Heritage Route explores sites of key anti-apartheid resistance figures and presents a narrative enacted against the disaster of colonial apartheid violence. Exploring how such a liberation route counteracts the apartheid landscape, this paper examines the efficacy of different historical narratives in transforming the public’s relationship to landscapes of violence, and the possible role of archival documents (such as Nelson Mandela’s original book manuscript) in underscoring the representational force of the archive.

Girls on Fast Bikes in the Zone of Alienation

Karen Holmberg, Stanford University, kgh11@stanford.edu

In Michel Serres’ The Natural Contract, acts of natural violence and the violence we enact on nature are inextricably combined with that which we enact on one another.  In trying to examine one prehistoric act of ‘natural’ violence, my research process became experientially bound to 9-11, rampant brutality in Rio de Janeiro, the exhumation of Kurdish mass graves in Iraq, Hiroshima Mon Amour, and a solitary motorcycle journey through Chernobyl. Each form of violence, past and present, became difficult for me to disentangle in the final analyses of the others; this conflation is inevitable and perhaps even desirable.

Parity of Poverty?: The Real Costs of Segregation in Contemporary Northern Ireland

Laura McAtackney, University College Dublin, laura.mcatackney@ucd.ie

Whilst the impact of ‘the Troubles’ (c.1968-c.1998) in Northern Ireland has often been quantified through lost lives and the economic costs of rebuilding, the impact on the most vulnerable is often overlooked.  Recent fieldwork around the ‘peace walls’ – construction erected to divide antagonistic neighbours – of deprived areas of Belfast indicates that the repercussions of the conflict are still felt today; and are still the burden of the poor. This paper argues that the materiality of segregation does not protect or maintain the peace, conversely these walls perpetuate and channel conflict, condone abnormal community relations and maintain poverty.

Fire, Representation, and the Violence of History in Highland Madagascar

Zoe Crossland, Columbia University, zc2149@columbia.edu & Bako Rasoarifetra, University of Antananarivo

This paper considers the violent acts around the museum complex at the heart of Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo. This consisted of a cluster of palaces and tombs of the highland monarchs, most of which were constructed in the 19th century. Built with the labor of enslaved people and with an oppressive form of corvée service, it was a reminder of an oppressive pre-colonial regime for some people in Madagascar. Others have viewed it as a sign of the island’s autonomy before French colonization. Post colonization the bodies of dead monarchs were transferred there for burial and the site was turned into a museum; another violent part of its history. In 1995 an arson attack burnt the complex to the ground, and work is now ongoing to reconstruct it. In this paper we explore the violent fire as a representation of the site, and subsequent archaeological work has engaged with this history of violence.

Archaeology and “Regimes of Care”

Nick Shepard, University of Cape Town, Nick.Shepherd@uct.ac.za

In this paper I set in play a broadly Foucauldian notion of “regimes of care” as a way of thinking about disciplinary knowledges and practices in relation to forms of epistemic violence. I take as a case study the exhumation of human remains from Oakhurst Cave on the southern Cape coast by John Goodwin and assistants. I speculate that archaeological regimes of care are founded on three forms of epistemic violence: a violence of objectification, a violence of excision (cutting), and a violence of abstraction and alienation converting the powerful relation between living and dead into a relation of knowledge.

Mumbai Histories: Sites of Reclamation and Encroachment

Carolyn Nakamura, Leiden University, c.m.nakamura@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Since the mid-18th century, the cityscape of Mumbai has slowly emerged from a colonial project of reclamation. Not simply the reclamation of land from the sea, the colonial project that deployed acts of human artifice to bend nature to culture also sought mastery over many native practices and histories regarded as ‘encroaching’ upon the rights to land and authority of the governing body (British East India Company). Traces of this project remain in effect in state practices today. This paper critically examines issues of reclamation and encroachment in the context of heritage site reclamation within informal communities in suburban Mumbai.