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Call for Papers: Archives and Politics of Memory in Central and Eastern Europe: from Informal Practices to Formal Methodologies

Organiser: National Museum of Romanian Peasant (Bucharest)
Date: 11-12 October 2018
Partners: MA Visual Studies and Society (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration - Bucharest), MA in Anthropology (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration - Bucharest), The Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and Art History at the University of Bucharest.

This workshop addresses an effervescent phenomenon triggered especially in the last decade by the discovery and/or by the (partial or full) opening up of institutional or / and private archives and collections in Central and Eastern Europe. The phenomenon poses a series of challenges such as: defining the right to ownership of individual memory as archived (and therefore institutionalized) memory; grasping the ambiguities which derive from this situation; finding the appropriate forms of retrieval, processing and archiving (some of the documents and objects being in a poor state of conservation); and advancing an ethics of exploiting such objects and the memories they enshrine.
The event will be open to scholars and to any members of the public interested in the above challenges. The workshop will focus on:
• informal practices developed by non-institutional actors – akin to “forensic investigation” (Brădeanu 2007) – to access a myriad types of archives and collections;
• methodologies for the reception, the interrogation, the processing/making use of and the (re)interpreting of archived objects/documents;
• the role of institutional actors who have shown interest in "vehicles of memory" (Confino 1997) and brought them out of the "biographical shadow" into which they had been consigned as a consequence of invisibility-targeted state politics or as a consequence of so-called historical accidents.

We invite submissions from the fields of Sociology, Anthropology, Ethnology, Political Science, History, Media and Cultural Studies that elaborate on, or are inspired by, the following topics:

1. The overlapping of the opening of archives with the spread of information technology. Over the past 20 years, at least two phenomena came to preeminence in archive dynamics. Here we address archives as “realms of memory” (Nora 1997), and we refer especially to archives in fields of humanities and social sciences. On the one hand, we witnessed the abundance and ready availability of information (text, image, sound, etc.) due to the generalized use of information technology. On the other hand, we noticed the diversification of these “realms of memory” by means of a plethora of ways of archiving information: institutional, private or hybrid, i.e. the archives formed following the dispersal of some institutional collections. Additionally, the advancement of new technology occasioned the transformation of the spoken words of the past, or of the testimonies recorded on magnetic tape, into texts, images, and sound archives.. (Ricoeur 2001)
2. Ownership of archives in post-socialist context. In countries of the ex-socialist bloc, the dynamics of archives articulate with the dynamics of the political changes which marked the fall of the socialist regimes. The change of the regime engendered the process of privatization that is the transition from collective to private property. Thus, recourse to archived memory, besides involving ethical and deontological problems, raises issues of ownership of the archived objects. Concomitantly scientific research was endowed with commodity value and became measurable. As a consequence we witnessed the attribution of a market value to archive use, and equally to the function of archives as repositories of memory.
3. The contamination of the logic of the archives by the logic of the database. Over the past 10-15 years, one can observe a contamination of the logic of the archive (tributary as it is to taxonomies related to the logic of different disciplines - history, ethnography, demography, etc.) by the logic of the database. Archived documents exist in an organic relationship with one another, and their reading is done convergently. On the contrary the database surrenders the logic of association of information to the researcher and involves the existence of diversified criteria in the selection and classification of information. The overlapping of archive and database related methodologies in the storing and re-questioning of information raises methodological issues concerning their use as well as ethical issues regarding access to the archived information.
4. Archives and art. Last but not least, the intersection between art and society has generated a scientific field of its own. This field involves forms of artistic expression which archives have themselves inspired. This has led to a situation in which cultural, political and social meanings of archives has come into the spotlight.
The workshop will include individual interventions and establish working discussion groups. Depending on the number of participants it will take place over one or two days.
Two international guests, distinguished in the field, will join our discussions and will give the keynote lectures (which will also be open to the general public). Individual interventions should not exceed 20 minutes.
Travel and accommodation costs will be the responsibility of participants.
The workshop will be followed by the publication of a volume of proceedings.

Please send your abstract (approx. 250 words) and a short professional bio to by May 31st 2018. Confirmation of acceptance, together with the invitation for the full paper preparation and presentation at the workshop will be sent until 15th June 2018. Please note that full papers should not exceed 2500 words / 8 pages in length and should be sent to the organizers by October 5th 2018.

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