Archive and Everyday Life Conference

I recently attended the Archive and Everyday Life Conference held by the Department of English and Cultural Studies at the McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The programme comprised a vast array of multidisciplinary papers relating to a broad concept of archive. Archivists, theorists, literature scholars, anthropologists and filmmakers from Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia and South Africa converged to participate in diverse panels. These included colonial, gay, lesbian and queer archives and counter narratives, as well as the archive and art, materiality, memory, new media, violence, geography and photography, to name but a few.

With a colleague from UCT, I participated in the “Colonialist Archives and Counter Narratives” panel. The four papers presented, although from different backgrounds and disciplines, were suitably matched. My paper was on digital community archiving in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, while the others dealt with issues of hospitality and accountability in the archive, and the archive and its others. The paper by Kerry Moog of the University of Western Ontario focussed on Africville, an area of forced removals in Nova Scotia, surprisingly reminiscent of the District Six area in Cape Town.

Keynote speakers (L -R) Ben Highmore, Angela Grauerholz, Michael O'Driscoll, Ann Cvetkovich
Keynote speakers (L -R) Ben Highmore, Angela Grauerholz, Michael O'Driscoll, Ann Cvetkovich

The keynote speakers included Ann Cvetkovich (University of Austin), who spoke on archiving queer intimacies, Ben Highmore (University of Sussex) on intimate archives in the British household and Michael O’Driscoll (University of Alberta) on archive theory and the self-reflexive turn in the archive and humanities. The conference also featured extramural activities such as film screenings and art exhibitions.

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  1. Well but unfortunately there wasn’t much time for discussion. 80 papers in two and a half days! Our panel did generate some interesting parallels between South Africa and Canada though.

  2. There was a paper on Africville, an area of forced removals that was evocative of District Six as well as questions of indigeneity, restitution and Métis identity.

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