Duane Jethro Presents at the Conference of the African Studies Association in Germany, 27-30 June 2018
APC Research Associate Duane Jethro presented at the bi-annual conference of the African Studies Association in Germany. Held in the East German city of Leipzig the conference hosted delegates from a variety of disciplines, with a broad range of panels exploring religious, sociological, anthropological and historical questions in Africa. Decolonisation and post-colonial approaches to knowledge production were, notably, not overt themes at the conference.
Organised by Dr. Stephanie Bogniz and Dr Fazil Moradi, both from the University of Halle-Wittenberg, the panel Archive, Promise and the Future in African Contexts, "explored how the archive forms memory and creates a tension between the past and the living present, how it embraces contradictory experience of irredeemable losses in the past and the future hope". Panellists included Aline Umugwaneza who gave a rich visual presentation on the digital Preservation of the Gacaca Archives in Rwanda, an overwhelming, and overwhelmingly important, documentary record of community court trials of perpetrators of human rights violations. Sara Dehkordi from the Free University Berlin presented a paper titled Thinking the Forbidden Archive, which looked at the everyday archives such as suitcases filled with newspaper clippings or cd's storing images of those who have been forcefully evicted in Cape Town South Africa. Dorothee Kuckhoff from Leipzig University presented on the Taglachin Monuments recovery from being a sign of authoritarian power to being an alleged international war memorial.
Duane's paper profiled the Five Hundred Year Archive Project developed and hosted by APC, and sketched its ramifications for thinking about archives in the future. He foregrounded how the project comes in the wake of 20 years of digital archival projects in South Africa and Africa, which have had to negotiate a variety of challenges related to funding, a lack of political will and uneven economies of knowledge exchange. Speaking to the FHYA project specifically, he outlined its four key innovations: namely how it renders visible the "curatorial fingerprints" that attach to every digital object, therefore revealing those who inform how objects get classified; that it includes a feature for the public to comment on the different objects and contribute to the questioning of curatorial authority; that the project uses open access software and has adapted it to suit southern African conditions, therefore eliminating the dependence on expensive software platforms that could influence the flow of knowledge through international licensing systems, for example; but also and finally that the project re-circulates the software back into the open access community including the modifications making it available for other users to pursue similar archival projects in similar contexts. Highlighting how the FHYA presents the possibility for the decolonisation of digital archives, the paper was well received.