Welcome to our new site

February 22, 2010

After our web hosting service collapsed our website went down for a long time. All the old content has now been uploaded to this new – free – address. So hopefully if you were looking for http://archivesandidentities.com you’ll still find everything you were looking for.

Invitation to our report launch, 17 September 2009

August 19, 2009

Report Launch

Community Archives and Identities:

Documenting and Sustaining Community Heritage

17 September 2009


Wilkins Old Refectory, UCL

Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Map and directions

Andrew Flinn and Mary Stevens will give a short presentation of their findings. This will be followed by feedback from participating organisations and an opportunity for general discussion. There will be a drinks reception from 6pm.

The report represents the culmination of a 20-month research project in the Department of Information Studies at UCL. More information about the project is available on our website.

If you would like to attend please email mary.stevens@ucl.ac.uk. Some space will also be available for the display of publicity material, so please do bring along flyers and leaflets.

This research is financed by the Arts and Humanties Research Council (AHRC).

Call for papers: engaging communities

August 19, 2009

The International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University is announcing a two-day graduate / postgraduate conference on the theme of engaging communities, 3rd – 4th December 2009.

This conference will bring together research postgraduates and early-career researchers to share and discuss issues concerning the engagement of communities in relation to heritage, museums and galleries practice, including community-led initiatives.

Call for papers:

Papers may present, but are not limited to, research and / or case studies

* engagement of communities through museum, galleries and heritage practice
* community-led projects
* local community involvement with archaeological site management
* projects initiated and steered by local communities
* internet community development and partnerships
* the role of engaging communities when representing difficult histories
* social history studies
* cultural policy-making with an emphasis on engaging communities
* education and learning
* cross-cultural communication
* safeguarding of communal cultural heritage, including intangible cultural expressions

By ‘engaging’ the research ‘community’, this conference will provide an opportunity to reflect on a range of issues, including the following:

The conference will question how, within the research community, do we go about researching ‘communities’ in the context of heritage, museums and galleries? What are the epistemological, theoretical, methodological and ethical issues that frame this field of study? How are current researchers tackling such issues and what can we learn from the different responses
coming out of the various contexts and academic backgrounds that are currently engaged with this research problem? How does the artificial division of fields and disciplines within academic research communities influence the ways in which ‘community’ / ‘communities’ is conceived, conceptualised and studied? How might improving communication and understanding of the range of theoretical and methodological approaches between different ‘disciplines’ in the research community move the field of
communities and heritage, museums and galleries forward?

Deadline for 200 word abstract: September 15th, 2009
Email abstract (word doc) to: engaging2009@googlemail.com

Kosher cake and golden syrup: notes from the field

July 9, 2009

Since I began working on this project eighteen months ago I have become quite good at giving a basic account of the project when people asked about my work. “Well,” I say, “we’re conducting an in-depth study of the work of independent community archives and heritage projects.” Depending on response from the person opposite I might go on to explain why we are focusing on communities that have been marginalised from history (primarily in our case because of their non-European origins), talk about the challenges of assessing ‘soft’ social impacts or explain our methodology. But I have also found that the nature of conducting fieldwork means that it’s often the people who know me best and who see the most of me who find it hardest to keep up. This is partly because working with four different case studies has been a bit like starting four different jobs in the course of a year: new people, new environments, new challenges. But above all it is because of the amazing diversity of work that our case studies themselves undertake, and that I have been lucky to be involved with. This is particularly true of Eastside Community Heritage, our fourth and final case study, with whom I have been working since April.

Last Wednesday, for example, I found myself accompanying a group of 14 children from a Dockland primary school to a day care centre in Stepney for Jewish elders where they gave a performance of a play they have put together (and with which I have been helping out). The play, written by Richard Morris, drew on voices from Eastside’s archive to tell the story of Silvertown during the Second World War and was part of the Mayor of London’s Story of London initiative, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is not the first time Eastside has worked with Jewish Care in Stepney – a few months ago they also brought young people of Bangladeshi origin together with the elders to talk about their experiences of growing up in East London (watch the video here) – but for me it was fantastic to see the impact of this kind of inter-generational and inter-cultural work for myself.

What this meant in practice is that I spent yesterday afternoon counting small people on and off the DLR and the no. 25 bus (in the pouring rain!), sitting on the floor in a community centre whispering prompts where required, handing out props (including a tin of Tate & Lyle’s golden syrup, from the Silvertown factory), mediating between the children and the elders as they asked questions about growing up in the war, evacuation and working in the docks, joining in a group rendition of ‘the Hokey-Cokey’ and helping to explain what was special about the (kosher) cake the children were given as a thank-you treat at the end of the performance, all the while trying to consign as much of the afternoon as possible to memory so that I could write it up later. Given that working with Eastside has on other occasions brought me into contact with factory workers in Bexley and Havering, and, at a recent ‘witness seminar’, the architects of the redevelopment of the Docklands in the 1980s and 90s (including former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Howe) it is unsurprising that my friends and family have struggled to keep up. No two days have been quite the same.

Silvertown community play at Jewish care

This will all change soon. I only have two more fieldwork days pencilled into my diary and then the long task of processing all my observations and our interview transcripts into a final report begins. What I do know, and what we must find some way of communicating in our report, is that as well as being a huge privilege, fieldwork has, for the most part, been tremendous fun. Like the children who enjoyed their day-out (or maybe just the kosher cake!) so much they didn’t want to leave for home, I shall also be sad to be moving on to the next phase.


Our History in Our Hands: useful resources

June 25, 2009

Links to the presentations from the ‘Our History in Our Hands’ workshop.

Presentation by Helen Hockx-Yu, British Library

Joanne Anthony, ULCC

Sundar Singh’s presentation

More information about some of the tools he described is available on his blog.

Thank you once again to our fantastic speakers!

Please click here to give us your feedback on the event. And let us know where we should go from here….

Image by Frankie Roberto on Flickr.

Journal of Media Practice Symposium: ‘Mediated memories’

June 23, 2009

Title: Journal of Media Practice Symposium
Location: University of Sussex
Description: This year the symposium will focus on the theme of ‘Mediated Memories’ and will include a strand on the uses and construction of memory in contemporary media practice. Topics for consideration include:

* the use and creation of archives
* oral histories
* family memories
* cultural memory and narrative
* cultural memory and documentary practice
* forgetfulness in the age of information
* dementia
* home movies past and present
* the uses of nostalgia
* reminiscence
* computer memory
* memory and identity
* amnesia and the unconscious

Start Time: 09:00
Date: 2009-07-13
End Time: 17:00

Call for papers: new media

June 18, 2009

From EASA media anthropology network:

Natalia Rulyova and Jeremy Morris, The University of Birmingham, in cooperation with Vlad Strukov, the University of Leeds, and Seth Graham, SSEES, University College London, are organising a series of two workshops New Media in New Europe-Asia. We are applying for CEELBAS support to run the workshops and are planning to have the best papers published in a special issue of Europe-Asia Studies. We invite contributions from scholars working in a range of disciplines and taking disciplinary, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to new media in Russia, Eurasia and Central Europe. We have outlined the themes of the workshops below.

SSEES, UCL, 28 May 2010

The Nature and Culture of New Media

  • Do the internet and new media liberate from the hegemony of large mass communication corporations? What is the future of the mass media in the age of digital technologies: popularity versus authority?
  • What coding and decoding strategies do new media audiences use? Do they take advantage of the limitless resources of the web?
  • How has the dichotomy posed by the traditional contrasts between text and image changed due to new media technologies?
  • How have social networking, blogging, and video-posting websites changed the relationship between the media and audiences?
  • What impact have new media had on the developments in pop and celebrity culture?

Contact Natalia Rulyova, n.e.rulyova@bham.ac.uk for more information.

Film screening by GPI generation

June 17, 2009

Title: Film screening by GPI generation
Location: George Padmore Institute, 76 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3EN, UK
Description: The True Reggae Story

GPI Generation is a new group at the GPI encouraging participation from young people in the activities of the Institute. In 2007 GPI Generation showed the film Dream to Change the World to a group of young people and held a discussion about their responses to John La Rose\’s legacy and their own lives and work. Since then they have held a number of discussion meetings and accomplished a video of Irma La Rose speaking of her early life in Trinidad and Venezuela.

Today the group are screening The True Reggae Story a Nu-Beyond summer school project that involved six young women and four young men aged between 15 and 17. In 2006, these young people interviewed 32 artist/dee jays for a study of Reggae Dancehall Culture during the 1970s and 1980s in London. Most of the interviewees were artists who had operated Reggae Sound Systems during those two decades.

The film will be followed by a discussion with participation from Lez Henry, the director of the project, some of the young people who took part in the making of the film, and members of GPI Generation, many of whom are involved in the music business.

Event on GPI website.
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2009-06-24
End Time: 21:00

Documenting diasporic identities: report on the CRONEM conference, 11 June 2009

June 12, 2009

Yesterday, I presented a poster about our work at the annual conference of the Centre for Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Migration (CRONEM) at the University of Surrey. The abstract for the poster is available here and the final version can be downloaded here. (Condensing it to A4 size did some funny things to the layout – sorry…).

The aim of our poster was to stimulate a discussion about future research challenges relating to the role of online ‘archives’ in constructing identities in diasporic communities. No one has as yet given us any pointers as to how we might design an appropriate research methodology, but there was a broad consensus that these are important future questions.

An additional reason for attending was to catch up on the latest debates about how societies ‘manage’ diversity. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the ‘backlash’ against multiculturalism, a phenomenon which has filtered through to the heritage sector (for example through the side-lining of the Heritage Diversity Task Force at the GLA). Ien Ang, the opening keynote speaker set the tone by taking on this issue right from the start.  She argued that the policy shift needs to be situated not just in the context of 9/11 and its aftermath, but also within the wider framework of neo-liberal globalisation, which has fuelled transnational flows whilst at the same time raising anxieties about diversity in many populations undergoing rapid change. She highlighted the need for social conditions to facilitate conversation and exchange between ‘different’ people, in order to contribute to the ‘normalisation’ of cultural diversity. But she also did not suggest that inter-cultural dialogue was any sort of panacaea: as she put it, “there is no definitive way of resolving the multicultural question,” only “ways of juggling multiple identities.”

This weary (although not necessarily pessimistic) realism seemed to me to characterise many of the arguments I heard, and this seems to me to be a shift from the tone of the discourse of few years back, when ‘cosmopolitanism’ and ‘inter-cultural dialogue’ were being touted as possible paths towards harmonious liberal democracies. Perhaps liberal democracies have also lost some of their sheen; certainly, the erasure of conflict around aspects of identity no longer seems either achievable or, to some, entirely desirable. Amanda Wise for example posed the very pertinent question, drawing on her research into interactions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Australia, of just what the best possible outcome looks like? Should we be worried if friendships across cultural divides remain rare, as long as people can find ways to ‘rub along together’ in the workplace, or civic spaces?

The theoretical thread was pursued by Floya Anthias, who offered a ‘thought piece’, rather than research findings. She made a number of useful points, including on the theme of ‘identity’, which she sees as an unhelpful category (as do many others). Instead, she argued, we should consider ‘claims’ people make on ‘representational or distributive resources’ (on the basis of a strategic identity) and the ‘attributions’ that are imposed on members of particular groups. Overall, the emphasis should not be on ‘difference’ per se, but the way ‘identities’ are mobilised to construct boundaries.

One of the most troubling sessions I attended was about citizenship, and specifically the introductin of citizenship ceremonies and education in the UK. Eleni Andreouli, Bridget Byrne and Charlotte Chadderton all seemed to confirm that in both registry offices and the classroom, an implicitly racialised, exclusive notion of ‘Britishness’ is being pushed by registrars and teachers, who have received minimal (if any) training in order to enable them to fulfil their new roles. This is partly because government guidelines have produced a Britishness that is negatively construed; in other words, it is a concept that is presented as having become necessary because our national ‘community’ is experiencing unprecedented threats (from terrorists, benefit cheats, illegal migrants etc.). There is nothing in this formulation to suggest everything that immigrants have contributed to Britain, or indeed that we are all, on some level, immigrants or descendants of immigrants.

The thing that concerned me most however in this respect is the extent to which there is a huge gap between academia and policy; very little of this critique seems to me to feed through to the government agencies in question. This discrepancy is most marked in the area of border controls. Over lunch I discussed this with Dama, a Madagascan musician who was performing that evening and who has been participating in Southampton’s fantastic TNMundi project. However much ‘transcultural capital’ individuals like himself may enjoy, travelling between Europe and Africa across networks of musicians, promoters, producers and so on none of this counts when he has to cross a border into the EU. His immense capital is immediately devalued; few border officials (and the policy-makers who instruct them) speak only the language of threat and control, very often with racist undertones. Social theorists need to work harder to engage a hostile and suspicious audience, it seems to me.

And finally, I experienced a disconcerting turning-of-the-tables when Suzanne Wessendorf presented a paper based on her ethnography of an area of London I know very well, and where I used to live. The tensions she observed across class divides (primarily, rather than ‘race’ or ethnicity) rang very true from my own experience, and I found myself thinking of endless episodes that could have constituted moments from her fieldwork. It is not always comfortable, being the observed rather than the observer, however remotely and it reminded me just how important it is to present findings in the form of a dialogue, rather than an academic judgement if they are to be at all well received.


Irish in Britain Seminar Series: Irish Connections: London’s County Associations, talk by Nicole McLennan

June 3, 2009

Title: Irish in Britain Seminar Series: Irish Connections: London’s County Associations, talk by Nicole McLennan
Location: The Old Staff Cafe, London Metropolitan University, Tower Building, 166-220 Holloway Road
Description: The Irish in Britain Seminar Series provides an opportunity for students, researchers and
scholars of Irish Studies to debate and disseminate the latest research in the field, in the light of
these developments. For over twenty years the Irish Studies Centre has provided a forum for
teaching, learning and research and this seminar series is an informal but informative means and
opportunity for anyone interested in engaging with current issues and research
about the Irish in Britain.
Start Time: 18:30
Date: 2009-06-10
End Time: 20:00