[P4844] Archives, Excavation, and the Arab Present

Created by Zeina G. Halabi
Sunday, 11/19/17 10:30am


The archive is both a repository for cultural memory and a device of the very knowledge and power that structures it. And yet, “nothing is less clear today than the word ‘archive’”, Derrida writes. As a modern construct that conceals as much as it claims to reveal, the archive has been understood as a site of exclusion and domination (Foucault, 1969); its excavation as a passionate fixation on questions of origins and genealogies (Derrida, 1995) and an attempt to probe the layers of the present in search for silenced past narratives.
This panel builds on ongoing conversations about the practice of literary, artistic, and historiographic excavation. Specifically, when art, whether in the form of film, posters or performance bears witness, can it also construct an archive? What are the institutional and political frames that enable different excavation practices in the act of either bearing witness and/or building an archive? How do personal and collective genealogies in amateur history writing counteract the time-space of the nascent state and of the professionalized discipline of history? How do we excavate the remnants of lost political ideologies and in what archives do we look for traces of these political moments? Do practices of post-colonial criticism that read colonial archives as sites of entanglements of knowledge and power also constitute a practice of de-colonial self-fashioning by producing an inventory of traces that marked and constituted the critic?
Addressing a palimpsest of works in visual art, literature, and historiography, the panel examines the ways in which cultural actors excavate the archive in counter-hegemonic practices that search for past narratives and ultimately reexamine discursive constructs such as universalism, nationalism, and secularism. As it suggests alternatives to the ahistorical and presentist scholarly approaches that have governed research on the Arab world, the panel reveals the ways in which archival and excavation practices can answer ontological questions in the aftermath of crises.


Art/Art Hist; Hist; Lit



Toufoul Abou-Hodeib

(University of Oslo)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Zeina G. Halabi

(American University of Beirut)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Fadi Bardawil

(UNC-Chapel Hill)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Samer Frangie

(American University of Beirut)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Presenter;